Being based out of Chicago, the history of pinball in the area has always intrigued me. I'm on the younger end of the spectrum here (34 years old) and the story of Big Bang Bar/Gene Cunningham always stuck out as a very cool one. I've followed the story over time and thought it was so cool that such an ambitious project was happening right in my backyard. At the same time, sad that Gene had such a passion for this hobby and industry only to be defeated and lose a bunch of money on the project.
In a recent work trip to central Illinois, I was in Bloomington IL and decided to see what was left of Gene's legacy.
I googled some addresses and checked out a few spots.
The roller rink was still there (under new ownership).
The address for IPB was a nasty old building that was all boarded up and no evidence of previous tenants.
I was specifically looking for the overspray where they painted the #BBB cabinets.
Knowing that Gene had many warehouses, I gave up.
I didn't poke around too much as there were plenty of cars driving by and an occupied house adjacent.
Then I found his house.
I recall an article where the warehouse behind his house burned down, the article was still up - https://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/cause-of-warehouse-fire-under-investigation/article_c4135de5-633a-5eff-92dc-a9846ed24c5b.html
I looked it up on maps first and saw the warehouse on there! Let's go visit.
I get there and it's a pretty big house from the street. I pull in back to find a little lake, a good amount of land, and a huge concrete pad where the warehouse used to be.
The house itself is pretty strange, it looks like a few additions were put on over the years.
I wasn't sure it was the right house. I was surprised for a fire there was no charred remains, everything was cleaned up.
I walk along the concrete pad looking to find some remnants of what used to be there.
While I find some broken glass (not from a backglass) the only artifact was one very rusty pop bumper plunger.
Again, it's a residential area and I didn't want any trouble so didn't stay long.
Looking the house up on Zillow - https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1409-Butchers-Ln-Bloomington-IL-61701/105639708_zpid/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=emo-propertyalertnew&rtoken=0651dc5d-7a3f-4ff7-a2a9-b119df107024~X1-ZUzjjglkyzhvk9_aau4d&utm_term=urn:msg:20200622172940043522bb87c5c8af&utm_content=image
Despite being on the market for over a year, the bank just accepted an offer on it.
It's INSANE inside.
I can only imagine the great times Gene shared with his kids and grandkids in this great home.
More-so, what cool and rare games once lived here.
I joke with my girlfriend that this is a sweet cheap house that would be cool to update, she humors me and says no.
It felt strange walking these grounds knowing what used to be here.
I was saddened that I never got to meet Gene or experience what he brought to this hobby.
Having learned that he recently passed, it was also a humble reminder that life is short and to stay motivated to get what you want out of it.