Many locals believe that “Old Austin” is dead and gone, but certain places remain in the city where Austin’s vibrancy, entrepreneurship, and weirdness still feel alive and well — one of which is the Pinballz venue and arcade.
With three Metro locations, Pinballz blends arcade games, pinball machines, indoor-outdoor attractions, and quality food and beverages to create the ultimate party or day-trip destination.
Back in 2010 – when malls and arcades were closing at a rapid pace – the Flipperz owners and husband and wife team Darren and Mikki Spohn were told their business model would never work. Still, the Spohns knew they could bring something special to town and will be celebrating Pinballz’s 12th anniversary this year on November 20th.
“We wanted to bring something really cool to Austin, something that didn’t really exist here,” said Darren Spohn. “We really felt like we could do two things. One of them is that we can bring a cool, arcade-style entertainment venue for all ages right here to Austin—and also put our kids to work and teach them how to work for a living.”
The pair set out to open their first venue and began visiting auctions to purchase their own arcade games and pinball machines. Eventually, they acquired enough games to open the original Pinballz location at 8940 Research Blvd., Austin.
“We started the business with profits from Darren’s technology company. Sure, everyone thought we were crazy to open the original arcade – but Austin was the perfect place and we received a lot of local support from our customers,” said Mikki. “We wanted to bring people of all ages together where cell phones were put down and families and friends became more social, like we grew up in the ’80s.”
The original location is a 12,000-square-foot indoor space filled to the brim with arcade games and pinball machines. Guests can bring their own beer, exchange tickets for exciting prizes, and participate in special events like tournaments and mystery parties.
“It’s so Austin — when we opened the original location, you’d see men and women coming in from work, dressed in suits, coming in to play pinball, and then a guy with a mohawk playing next to them. They’ve got the downtown guy, the college students — people of all ages and walks of life, all mixed up because pinball is an intergenerational sport,” Darren said. “…There’s something really cliquey, cool, unique that we have in the original arcade. That kind of old Austin feel, that vibe.”
As the Pinballz community grew in Austin, Darren and Mikki decided to bring the magic of Pinballz to Buda, this time with a new indoor-outdoor concept called Pinballz Kingdom.
“We’re like a theme park you go to, you don’t have to leave, where you can eat, drink, party and play all sorts of games and attractions… it’s the ultimate entertainment experience – and we’re cost-effective,” said Darren.
Located on 13 acres at 15201 S. I-35, Pinballz Kingdom features ample indoor and outdoor space for virtual reality games, a stage for live music performances, a beer garden, darts, cornhole and indoor rides Unlock all elements of the original location – food, drinks, games and attractions.
“We gained more experience with outdoor music and laser tag and had 13 hectares to expand our business,” said Mikki. “Buda was a small city when we first opened, but the expansion of hotels, apartment complexes and developments has seemed to explode in recent years. There is so much more to what we intend to do with this location.”
Pinballz’s third location at 13729 Research Blvd. in Austin is Pinballz Lake Creek, a 100,000 square foot venue with a ton of entertainment experiences: bumper cars, an indoor go-kart track, escape rooms, ax throwing, kid’s rides, mini bowling, an XD theater and six virtual reality games . Pinballz Lake Creek also features a scratch kitchen and the largest whiskey bar in north Austin.
“Lake Creek started with an area of 33,000 square feet. We set up a big kitchen and bar, along with as many party rooms as possible,” Mikki said. “After a few years we expanded the location when Hobby Lobby closed next to us. We then added a 6,500-square-foot laser tag arena, indoor go-karts, escape rooms, a high-end whiskey bar and lounge, and relocated and enlarged our redemption desk.”
Initially, the Spohns planned to move the original Pinballz location to the Lake Creek property, but as the first location continued to thrive, they decided to open a third venue instead. Although Pinballz Lake Creek is only eight miles from the original Pinballz, the two venues offer completely different experiences and have their own distinctive atmosphere.
“You can get 300 different whiskeys and bourbons on tap at the Whiskey Bar along with the best Texas microbreweries,” Darren said. “It’s one of the best bars in town and people don’t really know much about it, but it’s really cool. It’s a great place for parties… We host everything from small birthday parties of seven to events of 2,000 renting the entire venue.”
All three Pinballz restaurants serve freshly prepared food. In addition to Italian-style brick oven pizza, burgers, appetizers, and craft cocktails, each location offers special menu options unique to the venue.
Darren said Pinballz’s focus on “eat, drink, party, play” makes it the perfect scene for any type of gathering, from birthday parties and corporate events to high school lock-ins. With endless games, attractions and dining options, everyone aged 1-100 is guaranteed to have a great time at all three Pinballz locations.
Pinballz will be celebrating its 12th Anniversary on November 20th with a massive 12th Anniversary Party at Pinballz Lake Creek from 6pm to 8pm. Everyone is welcome for a walk down Pinballz History Lane with an exhibit, food, drinks, a photo booth, a DJ and a birthday cake! Plus, enjoy daily specials throughout each of the 12 days of Pinballz leading up to the event at all locations.
Interested in booking an event or learning more about Pinballz’s three Austin area locations? Visit their website at pinballz.com to view upcoming events, party options and menu items.
Stay up to date on social media with Pinballz:
Facebook – Original
Facebook – Kingdom
Facebook – Lake Creek
The above story was produced by the Community Impact storytelling team using information provided solely by the local business as part of purchasing “sponsored content” through our advertising team. Our integrity promise to our readers is to clearly label all CI Storytelling posts so that they are separate from the content that has been determined, researched and written by our journalism department.