Pinballz Kingdom

Darren Spohn owns Pinballz Arcade with his wife, Mikki. The couple is planning to open a third location in spring 2016 in Northwest Austin.

Darren Spohn owns Pinballz Arcade with his wife, Mikki. The couple is planning to open a third location in spring 2016 in Northwest Austin.

After about three years of building a brand that garnered a devoted customer base in Austin, Darren Spohn decided it was time to go big in Buda.

Building on the success of Austin's Pinballz Arcade in the city's suburbs as opposed to expanding within Austin perhaps goes against the grain of most small-business owners with high aspirations. However, Spohn said Buda was the right fit for what is shaping up to be the flagship location for his entertainment enterprise.

"This property was a good investment decision, but the majority of it was a gut feel," Spohn said. "It's just what was needed here, and that gut feel paid off for us."

The Buda location, known as Pinballz Kingdom as opposed to Austin's Pinballz Arcade, opened in September. The 13,000-square-foot arcade floor features 150 games in total, including video and ticket redemption games as well as pinball machines.

Located on the site of the former Dorsett truck stop, which had been vacant almost a decade, Pinballz Kingdom retains the exterior of the truck stop. Before the Spohns arrived and made significant improvements to the property, "it was nasty," he said.

He said the ceiling fans had melted, the kitchen was in disrepair and the space that now houses an office was a chicken coop.

"I could just see when we walked through ... this place being a wonderful, cool place," he said. "We just had to have the vision to turn around and do it."

The company received a $62,000 economic incentive deal from the Buda Economic Development Corp. in July. The funds went toward permit fees, infrastructure improvements and upgrades to both the interior and exterior of the building on the condition that Pinballz Kingdom create 25 full-time jobs with an average wage of $12.50 an hour and generate more than $100,000 in sales tax revenue for the city through 2020.

Spohn said the business employs 43 people in Buda and is slated to hire at least seven more by the end of the year.

In addition to its arcade floor, entertainment attractions currently include tactical outdoor laser tag, which Spohn's 16-year-old son runs on the weekends, and an outdoor music venue. The 2-acre laser tag course is one of the largest in Texas, Spohn said.

Pinballz Kingdom is also an official site for University of Texas football away games. With support from radio station KVET 98.1 FM, the location hosts watch parties for the football games, and afterward musicians perform on the business's outdoor stage.

A bar and outdoor seating area are located in front of the entrance to the building. Outside the eastern part of the building is a beer garden with an undeveloped portion Spohn said will receive additional German-themed amenities.

In all, the property sits on 13 acres. During Phase 2 of construction, Spohn plans on rolling out miniature bowling lanes and a go-kart track. Further into the future, the business could add miniature golf and a zip line, he said.

Spohn said his "gut-feeling" investment in Buda has been validated by the feedback from customers who say the area has been starved for an entertainment venue.

"I think the area is underserved for entertainment right now because of my customers that come to me and say, 'Thank God you finally brought something here,'" he said.

Parties


Pinballz Kingdom has spaces for various types of parties and events. Large events, such as wedding receptions and corporate events, are held in areas that can accommodate more than 1,000 people. Other areas accommodate parties of 10–50 people. Prices start at $12.99 per guest for parties of 10 people. Adult and children's packages are available. www.pinballzkingdom.com/parties-events

  • 15201 I-35, Buda, 512-523-4880

  • www.pinballzkingdom.com, Twitter: @pinballzkingdom

  • Hours: Arcade/bar: Mon.–Thu. noon–midnight, Fri. and Sun. 10 a.m.–midnight, Sat. 10–1 a.m. For restaurant: Sun.–Thu. noon–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. noon–midnight

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