We have Colorado’s largest pinball arcade right here in our small town of Lyons! (only a penny arcade has more machines). It has 53 arcade pinball games. Lyons Classic Pinball recently made the news in the big Colorado newspapers because it hosted the Colorado Pinball State Champions.
But its spot in history goes back to when it first opened in 2003: it was one of the only pinball arcades in the country at that time. It became a pinball mecca that “pinheads” all across the country heard about. The owners say that many of them came to visit and several went back home to start their own local pinball arcades. (see “history” below)
Championships / Tournaments
The owner downplays the prestigious honor of having the State Tournament here, by explaining that three places in Colorado rotate the competition venue. Persons participating had to qualify in Colorado, and have the top scores. Also, it was the first time that the Women’s State Championship took place in Colorado. The winners were Jordan Dechaine, Denver, and Cassie Begay, Denver. Other players came from Ft. Collins, Longmont, and more from Denver.
The IFPA World Championship later took place in Southern California. The #1 ranked player in the world plays regularly in Lyons Pinball. Escher Lefkoff lives in Longmont, and has been coming here with his dad, Adam, since he was three years old. He is now 19. His father converted a barn in their backyard to hold many pinball machines, and their trophies. Escher looks at every game as a story and forms a goal based on that. It is the second time he has won first place in a World Championship; with the last time being when he was 13 years old. He was officially crowned the “current World Champion” in the recent California tournament. He scored more than 1.5 million points.
The prize pool was just over $100,000, spread across seven different events, with the largest prize at $15,000. About 300 players participated. The next World Championship hasn’t been announced but it will almost certainly be in Riverside, California in January of 2024. People can find upcoming tournaments in their area listed here: https://www.ifpapinball.com/calendar/
The owner, Ryan Wanger, once played the games constantly and racked up many winning trophies. But, he is older now and wants to enjoy a wider array of life pleasures and has cut back on his playing. Despite that, he played seven events this year, and he qualified for the state championships, which takes the top 20 scores from events played in Colorado. Ryan has found a friendly and competent manager so he is able to travel.
He also runs a business selling LED lights for pinball machines. Between his businesses and his participation in tournaments, they take him to places like Australia (last summer). The country is a big pinball tournament place. But now, the more adventurous Ryan said that “it was the least interesting thing about the trip.”
This year he has participated in a few large tournaments. In February there were 64 people playing at the same event. It was a “classics” event which had players on games from 1985 or earlier.
History of Lyons Classic Pinball
Lyons Pinball has been in the vine-covered small building next to Oskar Blues & Grill at 339 Main Street, Lyons, since 2003 — 20 years! Kevin and Carole Carroll were the original owners, who decided to move on during the slow COVID pandemic years. The place had over 35 pinball games from the 1960s to the present, plus a multicade that had a few dozen video games in the one machine. They were fortunate in being able to sell it to a pinball enthusiast and expert, Ryan Wanger, in August 2020. For the first ten months, Ryan did not open. In May 2021 the doors reopened, with required masks and constant sanitizing. By 2022 things were running normal again. Today Ryan has 53 games, with the earliest being the 1971 Doodle Bug, on up to the 2023 James Bond one. A small handful of machines are placed in approximately three other venues in the Front Range.
Ryan finds that most of his pinball customers are not people patronizing other businesses in town and happen to stop by. Rather the arcade is a destination. They are mostly from outside of Lyons, and a great many are tourists from out of state, especially in the summer. There are frequent visitors from Denver, Ft. Collins, Longmont and Boulder. The average patron is 30 to 55 years old. However, many people do pause their playing to go next door and grab one of Oskar Blues’ famous beers and a burger. The lack of beer and a full menu are the only (rare) complaints about the place, according to reviews online.
What you will find inside
The place prides itself on having fully operational games and clean machines. Ryan says that the games from the ’70s and ’80s break down more frequently, but are easier and less expensive to repair. New games have more electronics. But all fill the room with the exciting sound of the clicks, bells, and pinball flippers.
The appearance of each game immediately starts the excitement: there are rock n’ roll themed pinball (like Elton John, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Rush, the Beatles, and more). There is a cowboy theme game: El Dorado. TV and movie themed games consist of Addams Family, Twilight Zone, Star Wars, and more. Occasionally a game is moved out and a new one is brought in. The original owners had the rare “Joust” game. People travelled for miles to play it. Games have plaques above them, giving the historic details of its existence, or something about the game technique.
In addition, they do monthly tournaments, weekly leagues, school outings, and private parties. There is a resident dog, and well-behaved dogs are welcome. Some games are 25 cents, others 50 or 75 cents, with some of the newest ones $1. Bring cash; there is a change machine that will give you quarters.
Tempted to stop by and try it? The owner Ryan, or manager DeeDee Macin, are friendly and helpful. They can give you tips about the games, and how to play them to get maximum points. While you can just plug in your quarter and instantly play a game, if you want to be more competitive, learning that pinball has strategy is the first step. Either way, you will quickly be rewarded with multiballs, flashing lights, and awesome sound effects. And, each game’s layout is a bit different.
Ryan suggests that “the way for people to get more involved is to play a local tournament.” Players are matched up so that newbies can learn from an experienced player. He says that players are friendly and eager to show people lessons and tricks on improving their play and results. “It’s a mixture of skill and luck.”
Perhaps Dee Dee’s enthusiasm comes from the fact that she has been playing here for a decade. For years, it was her unspoken “dream job” to work here, and learn how to fix machines. She has been the manager since last April 2022.
There are a few video games in the multicade, such as PacMan, Ms PacMan, and Donkey Kong. Just watch the glee on the faces of some grown-up “nerds” when they see them. One person said on Yelp, “Walking into Lyons Pinball is like stepping through a time warp. One strides through the door and all of a sudden you feel young again.”
Yelp reviewers, over the past couple decades, gave it 5 stars. The reviewers use words like: amazing, cool, insane, love. One reviewer said that he drove straight from the Denver International airport to Lyons. A woman said, “Classic games, retro vibes, old school fun. We’re up in Lyons a lot and while there aren’t a ton of non nature-y things to do ’round these parts, Lyons Classic Pinball is a must.” (Note, that the reviews mention “Joust” which is no longer available)
Stop by and visit… a great way to fight the Winter doldrums.
The Lyons Pinball is open Thursday through Sunday afternoons.
Tournament Info: The Open Tournaments take place on the 2nd Saturday of the month. Women’s Only Tournaments are the 3rd Saturday of the month. Both at 3 p.m. They are $10 and $5 respectively, but free for first timers. Note, they are open to players of all abilities, and they always have brand new players attending. Participants play 6 to 8 two-player matches over the course of two hours, with the top players advancing to the finals, which features four player matches.