Fan of The Beatles? Meet Ernie Rains, whose vintage The Beatles pinball machine prompted him to open a pinball arcade in Opelika.
Rock ‘N Roll Pinball is one of a kind for the area, an arcade full of both vintage and modern pinball machines for the amateur or the professional.
His First Machine:
Rains did not grow up as a pinball enthusiast; it became a hobby for him a couple years ago as he approached retirement.
He thought he might spend his time working on his 1987 Corvette but was exploring ideas for what to do when he would no longer be at work every day.
“I thought about maybe reliving a little childhood joy and getting a pinball machine for the house,” Rains said.
He said he was a little worried about what would happen if he bought a vintage machine– would he even know how to take care of it?
“So I decided to buy a brand new machine and I did some research and the number one pinball manufacturing company in the world was Stern,” he said. “And I went to their website and lo and behold, I saw that they were coming out with The Beatles pinball machine.”
The machine is based on The Beatles’ first years in America, ‘The British Invasion.’ Of course, it was a popular machine and was being displayed in Birmingham. Rains made the drive and purchased the machine for $8,000.
“Funny thing is, I spent $8,000 on the Corvette, and I thought, you know what, I will probably have more satisfaction playing The Beatles machine over and over and over again and getting really good at it than I was getting out of my Corvette.”
Rains said that after purchasing his own machine, he began wondering if there were others in his area who liked pinball too.
What Rains was thinking: an entire arcade with a purpose for pinball machines.
Building an idea … and a team:
Rains, his fiancé and a buddy’s family took a trip to Asheville, NC, and visited a pinball museum as he was still developing his idea.
“The whole experience of that pinball museum plus the revelation about, ‘Hey, pinball machines cost more than you think,’ kind of revealed to me that maybe there’s a niche for an arcade,” he said.
While the idea was still in its inception, he found a few friends online who were familiar with different machines, tournaments and routing and kept an eye out for people he could bring on board.
One of these visits led to Stephen Gentry, who had experience buying pinball machines, knowing if they are in good condition and owns 25 himself. Stephen had a friend, Scott Mount, who knew how to repair the machines too.
“So I looked at these two guys and I said, ‘Hey, this would be the colonel of the team, if we formed a team to put together an arcade,’” Rains said.
Lucky for Rains, the two accepted and jumped on board with a lot of ideas of their own.
Although Mount knew how to repair machines, his forte was in modern pinball, not vintage. So the three brought on Brian Briggs, who knew how to repair vintage pinball machines.
Finally, Brian’s daughter Amy Briggs joined the team as the business and entertainment director and general manager for Rock ‘N Roll Pinball.
The arcade is a place for both the younger and older crowd, Rains said.
“We’ll have 25 pinball machines, seven large screen TVs, a western-style bar, two video arcade machines that play over 150 different games,” he said.
Rains modeled a lot from the pinball museum in Asheville. For instance, at Rock n’ Roll Pinball, there will be an entry fee, $15, rather than a price for each individual machine.
“Pinball is very hands-on,” Rains said. “There is no comparison between the video version of pinball or any kind of video computerized game and the actual pinball experience. The pinball experience will always be unique. You will never, ever have two pinball games exactly alike.”
The games will include Rains’ The Beatles machine, along with others such as a Stranger Things Pinball machine, an AC/DC machine, a Captain Fantastic machine, an Iron Man machine and many more.
Rock ‘N Roll Pinball is located at 815 South Railroad Ave and can be reached at (334) 324-1406.
“I feel like Opelika is the perfect fit for something like a retro activity like pinball.”
Photos Contributed By Ernie Rains