Pinball Wizards: A Visual Tour of the 2009 Pinball World Championships

Take the 376 West through Pittsburgh, then go down 279 South five miles or so, out to the sleepy suburb of Carnegie, Penn. Cruise down the four-lane Main Street, past the abandoned used car lot and the Wheel and Wedge sandwich shop (“Foot-long sub special: $3.99 + tax”). Hang a left across the Hammond Street Bridge to the industrial park on the other side of Chartiers Creek.

 

Pinball Wizards: A Visual Tour of the 2009 Pinball World Championships

For 360 days out of the year, the big white building next to the Clark-Fishman Flooring Solutions warehouse looks like just another underused industrial property. But for four days in August (and a one-night charity event in February), the warehouse opens its doors to reveal over 30,000 square feet of immaculate space, housing over 400 pinball machines and classic arcade games. Welcome to the annual World Pinball Championships, put on for the 12th time in 2009 by the Professional & Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA).

 

Pinball Wizards: A Visual Tour of the 2009 Pinball World Championships

It’s a sign of pinball’s recent tough times that the game’s premier tournament has to take place in such a remote and seemingly inauspicious setting. But it’s hard to feel gloomy about pinball’s fate standing inside the sprawling PAPA headquarters, listening to hundreds of pristine, playable pinball tables dating back to the ’40s fill the air with their clanging. There’s a nervous energy as hundreds of attendees mill about the wide aisles, feed tokens into random machines, gently jostle cabinets to avoid gutters, talk strategy with old friends, or simply look on respectfully as the best of the best show off their skills.

 

Pinball Wizards: A Visual Tour of the 2009 Pinball World Championships

For the 2,000 fans and nearly 400 competitors that will stream through the doors over these four August days, this obscure warehouse is the center of a vibrant, competitive pinball subculture that is far from dead. This is the story of just some of those people.

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