Two weeks ago, I had the lucky opportunity to travel to Denver, CO, and check out the pinball community. My plan was quickly established: 1) check out Lyons Classic Pinball, and 2) play in a tournament at the 1 Up Bar (Denver’s equivalent to Ground Kontrol). With two weekends to kill in between work trips, I met with some really great players, welcoming people, and I ended up seeing much more than I’d expected. Denver and the Front Range area have the best pinball community I have seen outside of Portland. The Mile High City has great tournament players, operators that keep their machines well maintained, and great bars to rip at. Colorado has so much to offer that I’m writing this review up in three parts: Lyons Classic Pinball; tournament play in Denver; and a look at a private collection of 17 EM machines. Check ’em out if you are an enthusiast of awesome.
Lyons Classic Pinball was on the top of my list of things to see in Colorado. I hopped off my plane at 10AM on a Saturday, rented a hot cherry red Ford Focus, picked up a few local friends, and hit the road. Lyons,
CO—also known as the Double Gateway to the Rockies—is a tiny community with a population of about 2000 people an hour northwest of Denver, situated between beautiful wooded river country and dramatic red rock mountains. Within this unassuming Rocky Mountain community exists one of the most extensive collections of pinball machines state wide.
Kevin and Carole Carroll, owners and managers of Lyons Classic Pinball, began collecting machines only 11 years ago. Kevin is a gregarious guy who really loves teaching, talking, and playing pinball. He gently forced a friend of mine to start playing by giving her quarters and explaining the rules to Strikes and Spares pretty much immediately after we walked in. Kevin got into collecting machines when his wife purchased for him a classic 1978 Bally KISS machine. He’s still the proud owner of said machine, but like so many who own their own machines, his collection quickly grew. After stock piling an impressive arsenal of machines, he decided to put them out into the light of day to see if the public would saddle up to play. Lyons Classic Pinball was born, and an epic birth for the pinball world it was!
Check out this line up: Abra Cadabra, Bonzai Run, Andromeda, Joust, Strikes and Spares, Scared Stiff, Black Knight, Captain Fantastic, Dolly Parton, GNR, Funhouse, a very nice Monster Bash, Wizard, TZ, TOM, CFTBL, MM, Pyramid, Adams Family, El Dorado, Surfer, KISS, and Evil Knieval. This place has something for everybody. I worked hard to put up scores in this Mecca of machines, but only pulled a billionaire club on Bride of Pinbot, Lyons has some really great players putting up scores: Dean Grover, Adam Lefkoff, and a handful of other great tournament players were there prepping for Lyons league finals that were happening the coming week.
Escher Lefkoff challenged me to—and destroyed me on—games of Scared Stiff and Twilight Zone. It was kind of Clint Eastwood: he walked up, challenged me in front of my friends, and proceeded to kick my ass. My pincrew was in awe of young Lefkoff’s skills. This kid is about 9 years old. There are a plethora of great players coming up in Lyons; they do a great job of constantly building the pinball community in the area.
Lyons has also inspired many other members of the Colorado pinball community to get more involved and open up their own pinball parlors in other small mountain towns. There are now three other venues in Colorado inspired by the Caroll’s business model. All of these venues were opened shortly after a visit to Lyons and Q and A sessions with Kevin. One guy has gone as far as literally copying and pasting Lyons website and using it as his own for his venue in Pennsylvania. Careful observers of the two websites will notice this PA pinball enthusiast forgot to edit out the name of the neighboring Lyons restaurant, Oskar Blues, which has great food and tasty (and mighty) micro brews.
If you are interested in some great pins, a beautiful mountain drive, too many micro brews consumed in a short amount of time, and a wonderful pinball experience, hit up Lyons Classic Pinball next time you are even remotely close to Denver. The time will be like the view—gloriously mind blowing.
*All Photos by Jennifer Flaherty*