New! Dark mode!

Browsing Pinside at night? Getting tired of all the white? Switch to dark mode using the button in the top right (or CTRL-B)!

(Topic ID: 113737)

Building a Better Pinball Show v2 (Ann Arbor MI 2015 model)

By cfh

5 years ago

Topic Stats

  • 64 posts
  • 36 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 years ago by amkoepfer
  • Topic is favorited by 12 Pinsiders


Linked Games

No games have been linked to this topic.

    There are 64 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 2.
    #1 5 years ago

    As many of you know, we've started a pinball museum near Ann Arbor Michigan called Ann Arbor Pinball Museum or aka VFW pinball (vintage flipper world.)
    Web site:

    We are doing our second pinball show Friday May 15 to Sunday May 17, 2015.

    We had a thread about this last year, but there are some updates and some changes in ideas/plans to make this show even better.

    I've been going to pinball shows for nearly 20 years. I've seen a lot of stuff and a lot of ideas. But basically the biggest problem is that every show models itself on other shows. There isn't a lot of solutions to common problems. With the Ann Arbor Pinball Show, we feel we've addressed nearly every concern, making this model a far better total pinball experience.

    Generally people go to pinball shows for one big reason, the games. And pinball shows rely on the public, collectors, operators to bring their games. That means they have to tear them down, get them up the stairs, get them to the show, set up the game, and then baby sit the game during the show. After the show there's a limited amount of time to tear down the game, load it back up, drive back home, bring it back down the stairs, and then set it back up. Also the quality of said games can really vary from great to junk.

    So what is your compensation for the public bring a game to a show? Free entry. Now if someone said to me, "hey can i rent your pinball for the weekend, and you deliver it, and you have set up, and you have to fix anything that breaks, and you have to remove and bring it home, and i'll give you $25." Most people would probably not do that. But in the guilt statement of "helping pinball" for a show, we all do it, like it or not.

    At the Ann Arbor pinball show, the majority of the games are already there. In fact, there's 250 games already on site ready for the 2015 show. Last year (2014) we really discouraged people from bring games. But what we realized is that people *like* to bring games (even given the hassle that is involved in doing so.)

    So with this in mind, for 2015 we are doing a "call out" to everyone to bring games. We think bring games is cool and appreciated. And of course we'll give you free admission (like every other show.) And to make things even easier, you can bring and pick up your game(s) before or after the show, even days/week in advance or post show. Meaning you don't have to rush to get your game there on set up day, and rush to bring it home on closing day. Your game can come early, be safely stored on site, and be picked up at your leisure days after the show is over. Also loading/unloading is all ground level, no steps, and lots of pinball carts are on site to borrow. And you have complete control over your game, if you want to sell it, and when it comes or goes (early or late.)

    To avoid duplicate game titles, we do ask that you look at our list of games. And that you please don't bring a duplicate title. Also please no "show whores" (junky, barely working games, used to get in free, or get it fixed for free. (Heck i know show promoters that bring broken games to their own show so that the volunteers fix it for free!) This is a big problem at a lot of shows and one we really want to avoid.

    Games at the show:

    Another idea we are implementing with the 2015 show are headphones. We have notice at shows it's really difficult to hear the solid state games. It's a shame, because a lot of these games have excellent sound. So to make the whole pinball experience better, we are installing head phone jacks on many of our solid state pinballs. Not every game will have it, but a lot will. Meaning you can bring your ear buds and "plug in" to hear the game you are playing! This should make the whole pinball show experience much better for the players.

    Another problem at shows is the "people-to-game" ratio is terrible. If there's lines 5 deep to play every game, how much fun is that? Heck can you even move around in that environment? Show promoters generally aren't the types that are going to turn people away at the door. Heck they want your money. Some may say they are making money on the backs of their volunteer help. But regardless, i've never ever been to a show that turned people away.

    At the Ann Arbor show, we're doing it differently. That is, we cap the number of tickets available. We did this in 2014 and worked *really* well. So when the cap number is reach, like a concert, it's sold out. In 2014 we sold out on Friday and Saturday (Sunday did not sell out.) This kept the people-to-game ratio nice, so there's no lines to play. Sure there will be more people likely wanting to play Medieval Madness than Flip Flop, but even still, if the number of tickets sold closely matches the total number of games, isn't that a better situation?

    Put frankly, tournaments are good for a very small number of people. If you're one of those people, great, but most show goers are not tournament players. So why do shows take a row of 10 or 20 prime games, and limit them just to tourney players? Talk about the needs of the few getting higher priority of the needs of the many.

    At the Ann Arbor pinball show we too will have tournaments. But ours are different. Like in 2014, the emphasis of the show is not tournaments. But the tournaments we do have will be "classic" and "EM" tourneys only. So you won't see the most popular and newest solid state games being used in the tourneys. Finally the tourney games can also be played, at ALL times, by show goers (at no cost) whom aren't participating in a tourney. So even the games in the tourney are not "locked away" from the masses.

    Most facilities that have pinball shows are not set up well for pinball. Have to take a game to the show and use an elevator or stairs? Yea right! like that goes really well at the end of the show when everyone wants to get their game out, and are lined up waiting. Or going across the parking lot 300 feet with a hand truck and a game. Or electrical and lighting that just sucks for large numbers of games.

    At the Ann Arbor show, the facility is a full time pinball venue. That is, it's designed for pinball. The electric is robust. The load in/load out is all ground level and 10 feet from a drive up zone. The lighting is optimal for pinball, as is the heating and cooling. We're designed for this, not adapted from some hotel or expo hall that also has a show for motorcycles or cats.

    We learned a lot from our first show in 2014. With the May 2015 show, we hope to make things even better! The whole idea is to make the show going experience as good as possible for attendees. We would love to hear other ideas too! thank you.

    #2 5 years ago

    Kudos to Clay for his progressive thinking and continuing to support our hobby in so many ways. I went on Saturday last year, and it really couldn't have been a better experience. Now he's talking about adding headphone jacks - that is awesome, wow it can get better!

    My only suggestion is getting more feedback from the vendors. You didn't mention anything above so maybe there are some changes planned. It wasn't meant to be a focus of the show, but I know most people are usually looking for some part or supply stash. I don't think some people knew there was a nice area out back with vendors.

    Thanks for doing this again Clay!

    #3 5 years ago

    A late Christmas present! I've been waiting for the announcement of the next show. It was the best show I've attended hands down, if you are going simply to play pins.

    Any chance you are doing any repair seminars prior or after, Clay?

    #4 5 years ago

    Looks like Clay's show is an excellent model for other shows to learn from.

    Good job Clay!

    #5 5 years ago

    Thanks Clay and everyone involved. Last years show was awesome really looking forward to this.

    #6 5 years ago

    This was awesome in 2014. Looking forward to 2015 show!

    Edit: Got my ticket for Saturday!

    #7 5 years ago

    I have my cash ready in the Paypal account, when will tickets go on sale?

    Best show I've ever attended.


    #8 5 years ago

    Thanks! and actually tickets are available at

    On vendors that is going to take some work. Vendors are strange animals... they don't like new shows. Pinball Life will be there for sure, as Terry has been a great supporter of the VFW experience right from the start. Pin restore will also probably be there too, as he came last year and he too seemed to do very well. Gary from Abel electronics sez he's coming too. As for other vendors I've been talking to some but don't have firm commitments. But vendor space is FREE with free show admission too.

    On seminars we now have a place to do that. I'm unsure if we will go that route though. I've noticed at shows that seminars don't seem to be all that popular (except for Chicago Pinball Expo). People just don't seems to go in any numbers. So to dedicate the work/space for a very small percentage of goers, I'm not sure it's worth it.

    Instead i would like to run classes either before or after the show. for example, our show is Friday May 15 to Sunday May 17. Maybe run some classes/seminars on Thursday? Or maybe do the seminars Friday morning before the show starts at 4pm? Not sure on this...

    #9 5 years ago

    looking forward to the show [again] in may

    last year was a blast. my gf and I spent a good 8 hours on saturday before calling it a day. the number of machines available (all of which were in fantastic shape) as well being able to play a significant number of machines which are considered rare was well worth the price of admission

    #10 5 years ago

    Can't recommend this show enough. Playing all of the wood rails was a great experience.

    #11 5 years ago

    The facility has expanded too so there is more room. Also camping is available and a 24 hour room , making the show go all night on Saturday/Sunday for a portion of the facility.

    #12 5 years ago

    I had a great time last year. Looking forward to going again.

    Clay - I think you would have no problem filling a repair seminar during the show. But if you are thinking after or before please let us know soon for travel planning


    #13 5 years ago

    +1 on the seminar(s). You can count on my attendance, as I try to soak up as much as I can with all the knowledge you have to share!

    #14 5 years ago

    You sure posted a lot in the first post, but you already had me at "Pinball Show".

    #15 5 years ago

    Totally on board with the wife, might be our anniversary trip. It'll be great to play so many great pins, but more than that I want to shake the hand of the man who's a pinball god to me.

    #16 5 years ago

    Clay - I don't know how to do the logistics on this, but one thing I was hoping to do last year was to put a face to fellow Pinsiders. A name tag could go a long way towards this. Maybe someone can think of a better way of doing this. (Small hand-written name tags in a dark room won't go very far.)

    #17 5 years ago

    I can put out a pile of name tags at the door. but if people don't want to use them, not much you can do. some folks will use them, but my guess is it will be a small percentage.

    a grass roots pinside effort to make 'custom' pinside name tags (to use at any show) is probably a better way to handle that.

    #18 5 years ago

    I'm definitely in this year. I think this year we will come up on Saturday and I'll bring my dad.

    We came up on Friday last year and loved the variety. I bet we played 100 games between the three of us. The volunteer staff you had on hand did a great job of coming and getting machines fixed quickly.

    #19 5 years ago

    I went for Saturday last year and has a blast. I can easily say it was the best pinball playing experience I've ever had. So many games to choose from, rarely any wait time and everything was working perfectly. The few instances that a game went down, techs were on the job immediately. The only bummer was that I didn't have more time to play everything. Solution - go for 2 or 3 days this year.

    I really like the idea of adding headphone jacks to some games. I'll definitely take advantage of that!

    #20 5 years ago

    Will there be a game give away again this year?

    #21 5 years ago

    Where do I purchase the camping pass?

    I could not find it on the site.

    I would also like more details on classes in advance so I can plan PTO ASAP.

    #22 5 years ago

    We don't have the camping thing all figured out yet, that's why there's no option to purchase right now. we are still trying to figure out the numbers and at what price (if any) it should be. Seminars, if they are available, will be on friday before the show starts at 4pm. again we're still wrestling with that and not sure if they will happen, and if so, what they will cover.

    #23 5 years ago

    If coming in to the area on Thursday (hoping for a class of some sort on Friday) where would you suggest for near by lodging on Thursday night?

    Any camping option on Friday evening?

    #24 5 years ago

    side note suggestion: make the paypal so you can order and pay for multiple tickets for multiple days in one transaction.

    #25 5 years ago

    ( ((follow)) )

    #26 5 years ago

    Last showcase was awesome, can't wait for the next one. I plan on being there Saturday.

    #27 5 years ago

    Can't wait!

    #28 5 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    If coming in to the area on Thursday (hoping for a class of some sort on Friday) where would you suggest for near by lodging on Thursday night?
    Any camping option on Friday evening?

    We will probably have a camping option on friday too. again still trying to figure that part out. on the webpage there are hotel choices listed. one is pretty close and fairly inexpensive. the other is a couple miles further away but has a continental breakfast and is a nicer hotel.

    #29 5 years ago
    Quoted from labnip:

    ( ((follow)) )

    get off your lazy butt and make the trip up here for the event!

    you've got 5 months to plan your trip and I'll even buy you a round (or two)

    #30 5 years ago

    For people that go to shows with a focus on playing pinball - this show is amazing. It is a show that should not be missed - tons of games, virtually every one working (and working well), techs everywhere to fix anything that breaks, etc.

    #31 5 years ago

    Although I've never been, Clay posted a great walkthrough video that kickstarter backers got access to.

    #32 5 years ago

    The walk thru video from kickstarter is pretty outdated now. a lot has changed.

    a couple other things we do to make the playing experience better...
    - all DMD games have glare guards.
    - we have *every* installed that they have released. every one. that's like 15 i think.

    #33 5 years ago

    Since this will be my first time coming to VFW and I was a backer of the original kickstarter, was there some sort of perk associated with the original donation? There does not need to be but I thought I remembered something about visiting for backers or early entry to event or something. I may not be remembering correctly also?

    #34 5 years ago

    Does VFW have 2 linked NBA Fastbreaks?

    #35 5 years ago

    We do have one NBA fastbreak with a second coming next week. We are in the process of setting up the link between the two (making the cable, and the communications chips have been ordered.) so yes, by show time, there will be two 1997 WPC-95 Bally/Williams NBA fastbreaks linked together.

    #36 5 years ago


    #37 5 years ago

    Just ordered tickets for Sat. Really looking forward to it. 3.5 hour drive from Dayton, OH. Better be able to get a pic with Ninja--been following that "cult hero" since day one! (Still can't fix my own shit, but oh well.)

    1 month later
    #38 5 years ago

    This is going to be great!! Can't wait!

    #39 5 years ago

    So, what do I have to do in order to bring a game to the event?

    #40 5 years ago
    Quoted from Noobee:

    So, what do I have to do in order to bring a game to the event?

    Contact the event if it isn't on their website.

    LTG : )™

    #41 5 years ago

    It's really easy to bring a game.
    Everything is ground level.
    Unload 20 feet from where the game will be set up.
    Pin carts and hand carts available.
    Bring game anytime, even a week before if easier.
    Pick up anytime, even a week after the show is over.
    Feel free to sell your game, it can leave at any time.

    #42 5 years ago

    Can you bring a game to the showcase?
    Yes! Bring a game to the Ann Arbor VFW pinball showcase is welcome – we encourage people to bring games to the show! If you want to bring a game you’re proud to show it off, or if you’re trading or selling to a friend and want a place to meet, that would be great. Doors to the hall are at ground level and within 10 feet of a drop off area, and we have many pinball carts available to borrow. We will have a dedicated area set aside for visiting pinball machines. And you have complete control of your game, when it comes, and when it leaves. If you are bring a game title which we don’t already have, you get FREE show admission. Our goal is to showcase our collector quality games and any quality machines that the pinball public wants to bring. Also you can bring your game to the show anytime. That is, bring it a week before (you’re not forced into bring it only on “set up day.”) Same goes for pickup… If you can’t pick up your game for a few days after the show, no problem. We’re trying to make this whole process very easy!

    #43 5 years ago

    Just got my tickets for Saturday. Still debating bringing a game, probably won't be for sale though. Maybe gladiators? Bone busters? Hmmmm

    #44 5 years ago

    Either of those games were certainly be welcome, thank you!

    #45 5 years ago

    I will bring a Bally NIGHT RIDER EM version.

    #46 5 years ago

    I hope to bring a WMS Toledo if I can ever get it figured out to fix it.

    1 week later
    #47 5 years ago

    just bought tickets for Friday and Saturday. this is going to be epic, a 24 hour pinball room,,,,,, to cool man.


    #48 5 years ago

    Tyrone, you'll also need a Sunday ticket to play all night.

    1 month later
    #49 5 years ago

    Figured I'd bump this thread since its the next Michigan show coming up. I haven't been to this show and am considering bringing a game or two, I saw there will be a 24 hour section, is that the normal games or the games people bring? One game I may bring is bone busters and I don't think you can set that on free play and don't want it to run out of credits when I'm not there. And is there an issue with shaker motors? The other game is gladiators and that shaker will shake the building down! But its not quite as fun with the motor unplugged

    #50 5 years ago

    Gravitar, are you considering selling the Toledo? I have a friend that has been looking for one if the price is right

    Promoted items from the Pinside Marketplace
    $ 399.95
    Lighting - Led
    Pin Stadium Pinball Mods
    $ 700.00
    Cabinet - Toppers
    Great American Pinball
    $ 9.00
    $ 225.00
    Lighting - Interactive
    Professor Pinball
    $ 9.95
    Apparel - Unisex
    Pinball Wheezer
    From: $ 42.00
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    $ 24.00
    Playfield - Other
    Pin Monk
    $ 17.00
    $ 20.00
    Various Novelties
    GC Pinball
    From: $ 38.50
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    $ 36.99
    Matt's Basement Arcade
    From: $ 34.99
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    Medisinyl Mods
    $ 48.00
    Cabinet - Other
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    $ 76.95
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    Super Skill Shot Shop
    $ 4.49
    Yorktown Arcade Supply
    $ 35.00
    Cabinet - Decals
    Pinball Haus
    From: $ 50.00
    Gameroom - Decorations
    Pinball Art Prints
    $ 89.95
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    Super Skill Shot Shop
    $ 76.95
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    Super Skill Shot Shop
    From: $ 42.00
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    $ 86.95
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    Super Skill Shot Shop
    $ 48.00
    Cabinet - Other
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    From: $ 42.00
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    $ 799.00
    Flipper Parts
    $ 229.99
    Lighting - Other
    Lighted Pinball Mods
    $ 10.00
    Playfield - Decals
    Mods for your pinballs
    $ 53.00
    Lighting - Interactive
    $ 4.49
    Yorktown Arcade Supply
    $ 5.49
    Yorktown Arcade Supply
    $ 99.99
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    Lighted Pinball Mods
    There are 64 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 2.

    Hey there! Got a moment?

    Great to see you're enjoying Pinside! Did you know Pinside is able to run thanks to donations from our visitors? Please donate to Pinside, support the site and get anext to your username to show for it! Donate to Pinside