Tucson Pinball League's top players to vie for 1st-ever league championship

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Published: Apr. 6, 2018 at 4:50 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 6, 2018 at 6:28 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson Pinball League will hold its first-ever pinball championship Sunday evening, April 8, at the Tucson Indoor Sports Center at 1065 W. Grant Road.

The tournament will pit 12 of the top TPL players in an elimination contest to determine the champion.

The title winner will have his or her name engraved on a 12-inch steel ball, a traveling trophy to be awarded every year.

"That's going to be like the Stanley Cup of pinball," said Wayne Saeger, who organized the event. "Well, the Stanley Cup of Tucson."

The interest in pinball waned in the past decades as the number of places to play dropped, as arcades closed their doors nationwide, the victims of home computer games.

Now, as with many things nostalgic, pinball is gathering steam.

"It's a slow growth, but it's a steady growth," Saeger said.

There is an new arcade devoted to pinball on Fourth Avenue and two others planned for downtown Tucson in the next year.

Saeger has seen his league membership jump to 29, including three women.

18-year-old Stephanie Ambrose is one of those.

"Most girls think it's a guy thing, you know, just let the guys do it," she said. "I'm like no, I'm going to play pinball because it's fun."

Saeger formed the league four years ago because several players tired of having to drive to Phoenix or Mesa to participate in tournaments.

The pinball machines they use in Tucson were generally built before 1990s, some as early as the late 1970s.

While there is a difference in the on-screen experience, one thing remains the same: the steel ball which is 1 1/16 inch in diameter and weighs 2.78 ounces.

The ball so far can't be replicated digitally, which gives it its instinctive style.

The sounds, lights and flippers, which were invented in 1957, make it different than on-screen games which have become popular with so many younger audiences.

But it's thought, with renewed interest in the games and its unique style, it will continue to grow.

"This is not meant to be a boring library experience," Saeger said. "Pinball is more than just this game, this machine, this tournament. It's about the social gathering."

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