Park Slope is flipping out!
The brownstone neighborhood is home to one of the largest competitive pinball scenes in the city, due in large part to a recent boom in local watering holes that cater to supple-wristed ball bashers, according to one enthusiast.
“It’s definitely on the rise again,” said Terry Van Pelt, a Sunset Park resident who travels to the Slope to play the silver ball. “It’s really popular now. I mean there’s a pinball bar every block.”
Most of the nabe’s pinball saloons are clustered along Fifth Avenue around Ninth Street, where machines can be found at the Owl Farm, Skylark, Commonwealth, the Monro Pub, the Buttermilk Bar, and Paddy’s of Park Slope.
But further north on Fifth and Fourth avenues, wizards also shoot for high scores at High Dive, Pacific Standard, and the Rock Shop, which recently shifted from being a music venue to a gaming bar sporting six pinball machines.
Park Slope’s verve for the bumper-filled arcade machine is especially evident in this year’s roster of the city-wide Pinball New York City contest — of 38 teams, 11 are based at Park Slope bars — and it’s New York’s only neighborhood with its own dedicated pinball league, which runs during the off-season in the winter.
But the area’s flipper fanaticism is also apparent simply by bar-hopping south of Ninth Street, where it’s virtually impossible to grab a drink without running into somebody from the scene — something that isn’t true of other neighborhoods where pinball is on the rise, according to the founder of Pinball New York City.
“I would say that I can walk through Bushwick and not run into anybody, but it’s impossible for me to not run into a bunch of people in Park Slope,” said Kristopher Medina.
The ’hood’s rise as a pinball Mecca began about three or four years ago, following a long-slump during which “lazy” operators did a lousy job of keeping their machines in good working order and hampered the arcade sport, Medina said.
“They weren’t earning, and maintaining a pinball machine is a lot of work, so they were like, ‘why am I going to spend my money on this? I’ll just do ‘Ms. Pacman,’ ” he said.
But lately, more dedicated operators — who own the machines and lease them to bars in exchange for a cut of the coin — have arrived in the city, and both the bars that lease their machines and their patrons have benefited, according to Medina.
But just having a few decent machines only gets you so far. Ultimately, the Slope scene has grown to what it is because the locals love the tactile, throwback arcade phenomenon and it has become their go-to group activity, according to one player.
“It’s fun and social,” said Park Slope resident Sonny Farnsworth. “There are some players who are really, really good, but most people around here are playing more as a social thing they can do with their friends.”