Before the iPad, There Was Pinball
Imagine a Wichita where pinball machines line the walls of arcades. They can also be found in every QuikTrip, Pizza Hut and pool hall. Local pinballer Rob Huffman doesn’t have to imagine it. Instead, he remembers it fondly, and hopes to restore Wichita to its former pinball-city status.
Huffman discovered his love of pinball at a young age, playing every chance he got at the local gas station when he was in junior high. He and a friend would spend hours in the back corner of the store, flippin’ the days away. When Huffman was old enough to drive, he began to frequent local arcades. By the 1980’s, pinball machines were everywhere, and Huffman did his best to play every one of them. By the time Huffman got married and began his family and his career, he had all but forgotten about pinball.
“Pinball became just a game that I no longer had time for and, for many years, I only thought about when I happened to see a machine,” Huffman said.
It was in 2012 that Huffman was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. After two surgeries, Huffman was unable to work. As a result, he found himself with a lot of time on his hands. One evening in 2014, Huffman and his wife went to the Lost Sock Laundromat to do their laundry.
“To my surprise I saw 20 pinball scattered throughout the room. After a couple hours of flippin’ I knew I was once again hooked on the game of pinball,” Huffman said.
Wichita's Pinball Community Continues to Expand
In February of 2015, Huffman created the Facebook group Pinball Wichita, in hopes of bringing the local pinball community together and help bring pinball back to Wichita.
“Wichita use to be a pinball town….The city was infected with pinball! Today if you ask the average local resident where you can go to play a game they will have no idea,” Huffman said.
The group features a pinned post Huffman created with a list of all of the pinball machines in the Wichita area and where to find them.
“There are currently only 37 (71 pins) public locations where you can go to play a game of pinball. When I realized that there were so few public machines left for the Wichita community to play, I was very disappointed and discouraged,” Huffman said.
Huffman built the list, with the help of members of the Pinball Wichita group, in order to provide a reference to people who are looking for a place to play. The Wichita pinball list can be found here.
“There is currently a resurgence of interest in pinball, a pinball revival if you will,” Huffman said.
According to Huffman, a few things are fueling this resurgence, including the rise of organized competitive pinball tournaments and the introduction of the first-ever World Pinball Player Rankings. Cities like Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Enid are hosting International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) tournaments and leagues, and all three of these cities have seen a huge growth in pinball. As for Wichita, we’re just getting started.
“We are just finishing up our first six week pinball league and hosting our second IFPA tournament this month,” Huffman said. “The excitement and interest is already building.”
Huffman says that the next Friday night leagues are currently being formed. If you would like to sign up or get more information on the next six week, check out the Facebook group for details.