Will Hyden plays pin ball at  Free Play, a retro arcade in Richardson on Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. His son, Corey Hyden, is one of the owners.

Will Hyden plays pin ball at Free Play, a retro arcade in Richardson on Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. His son, Corey Hyden, is one of the owners.

Rex C. Curry/Special Contributor

Get your flipper fingers ready: A bar dedicated to pinball is headed to Oak Cliff.

The people behind Free Play Arcade, which has locations in Richardson and Arlington (and, soon, Denton), are in the early stages of creating The Dallas Pinball Project. The bar, part of the revitalization of Jefferson Boulevard, is expected to host "about" 42 pinball tables alongside its offerings of alcohol.

Yes, there's a good chance it's where you'll be able to find treasured pinball classics like The Addams Family and Twilight Zone, but the project's owners have a library of about 130 tables, so you might also stumble onto a new favorite.

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Don't expect to activate multiballs too soon, though. The project is still in the permitting phase, and it will be several months before construction can even begin. The hope is to open the bar by the end of 2018, but that's not a guarantee.

CultureMap first reported the news of the bar, though they mistakenly called it Slam Tilt, the name of the holding company that permits were filed for.

"Nine months ago we decided we were going to try to open a pinball bar in Dallas, because we thought Dallas was right for that," says Corey Hyden, president of Free Play, Inc.  "We tentatively called it the Dallas pinball project, and that's what kind of stuck with us. So the actual name of the place is the Dallas Pinball Project." He says that he and his partners went through "probably 150" different names and worked with different designers before settling on the name. 

Unlike Free Play, at which retro arcade and pinball machines are free to play after paying an admission fee, machines at The Dallas Pinball Project will require you to insert coins or credits to play. Why? Because as anyone who has ever owned a pinball machine can tell you, maintenance and upkeep can be a nightmare. Hyden says that the pinball tables at both Free Play locations (10 in Richardson, 12 in Arlington) take up more than half of their technician's time, even though they have more than 200 arcade cabinets running at the same time. 

"Most pinball tables are supposed to get something like 10,000 or 15,000 total plays a year," he says. "Ours are getting 100,000 at Free Play." The simple act of starting a game of pinball and then walking away without finishing it puts wear and tear onto machines. The hope is that by requiring even a small investment into starting a game will encourage more people to finish it.

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The Dallas Pinball project will also be able to host machines that Hyden says wouldn't survive under the free play model. As an example, he mentions a series of head-to-head tables from Alvin G. & Co, which aren't very common and which are "just impossible" to keep running on free play. "Some of the more rare and obscure stuff is what we're really excited about," he says.

Like Free Play, Hyden and co. plan to rotate the selection of machines available at the bar, with the idea being that you can discover something new on subsequent visits. Tables are expensive to purchase and hard to move, but Hyden hopes that by being able to put more pinball machines in front of people at a time, the rotation of those machines between The Dallas Pinball Project and each of the Free Play locations might increase.

You can expect The Dallas Pinball Project to have a different atmosphere than Free Play. While the arcade locations are certainly aimed more at adults than families, there are plenty of all-ages hours where children are welcome to come play games (as long as they're with an adult). The pinball bar will be more of a "true bar," catering even more to a 21+ crowd. Hyden expects that there might be only 10-12 hours per week when the pinball bar is open to all ages.

"For all these people that played these old pinball machines, there were never 40 of them in one place," Hyden says. "Maybe they fell in love with a Williams High Speed in the back of a bar in 1988 and haven't been able to find one since. Having 40+ spots to put pinball in the world gives us a chance to reunite people with their old favorites, rather than just the big ones that everyone remembers."

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