Arcade Raid! Playland Park, Flint, Michigan

Playland Park has been a cornerstone of family entertainment in the Flint area of Michigan since 1968. Hank Werner created Playland, which housed go-carts, miniature golf, an ice cream parlour, pizza and later, arcade video games and pinball.

Prior to its recent closure, the business thrived throughout the 70s and 80s, and even after Hank retired, his family kept things running, staying open and maintaining a positive reputation as a community focused business in the local area. This was the place to come to have fun for generations of locals and tourists. In more recent years, keeping the place up, running and profitable has been more challenging. Playland diversified the business, by reducing the size of the arcade, and opening a couple of “Escape Rooms”.

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Playland Park. Almost fifty years in business is a pretty good run for any arcade!

In reducing the footprint of the arcade, the machines themselves were moved into a basement area, which is where we pick up the story.

KLOV user Esqueleto got in touch with me to share the tale…

My interest was piqued a few years before Playland finally closed in 2018. They had listed a few games for sale on the local Craigslist classified pages. They kept reducing the size of the arcade to make way the addition of a couple escape rooms, which have become quite popular here in recent years. After inquiring about the games that were listed for sale I made an appointment to stop over and check them out.

While there, Esqueleto asked if the owners had any other old video games around that were no longer getting any love.

That’s when they showed me the games in the basement….

So what you have is a fairly unique situation, when games came to the end of their life – either not being played or breaking down, the cabinets were stored down in the basement underneath the arcade. What this created was a treasure trove of classics.

But the tragedy is there appears to have been water ingress that went unnoticed for a long time. Whether this was ground water seeping in or a burst pipe isn’t clear. These pictures were taken in the summer of 2015. Brace yourself:

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At first glance, everything looks pretty solid, and a good range of titles in view. Tempest, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Centuri Eagle – even a Sega Space Tactics cockpit on the right there
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Nintendo dual monitor Vs cabinet – a nice find. Hang on – that floor looks a bit damp…
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Q*Bert looks to be in “survivor” condition at least
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So here’s where it gets painful. Look at the base of the Space Invaders, not to mention that watery puddle….
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Oh man. Sega Outrun, Atari Xevious behind it. Don’t look at the Pac-Man
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OK let’s look at the Pac-Man. This is why water and classic arcade machines don’t mix!
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The Centuri Eagle looks complete
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A real classic here. Atari’s Football, complete with head to head trackball set up
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Here’s a closer look at that Xevious. Everything looks OK until you look at the lower 18 inches of the cabinet. Note the warping from the water ingress. This would be a common theme
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Atari System 1 cabinet, and Atari Millipede in the background…

What’s clear from those pics, is that everything had taken on some serious water. But if there’s anything to be salvaged from this sorry tale, it’s the acquisition of parts. Whilst the woodwork of most of the cabinets was completely destroyed by water, there were many parts that were able to be saved.

Esqueleto over the next few years, was able to revisit the arcade multiple times and acquire a huge amount of parts and cabinets on each visit. Here’s a video of one such haul:

So whilst the cabinets were destroyed, the bulk of those control panels you see in the back of Esqueleto’s truck were all saved.

Aside from the parts taken over the years, not much had changed in the basement. One or two cabinets were sold off and removed by a handful of local collectors – it’s worth noting that not everything had to be scrapped or stripped for parts. Towards Playland’s final closure last year, there was a serious effort to rescue any remaining parts and sell them off. And what was left of the main arcade upstairs did still hold several quality cabinets – something like 20 cabinets remained out on the floor. Lots of fighters, a couple shooters, NBA Jam and Blitz – mostly 90’s titles that were still popular with visitors. A few classics such as Donkey Kong and Galaga were also on the floor too!

If your stomach can take it, here’s more scenes from the basement!

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Sega Carnival
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Look at the base of the Galaxian. Youch!
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But again, there’s parts galore here. Control panels, coin doors, bezels and monitors. All desirable to keep other games alive
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Let’s not dwell on this pic
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Weird Robotron conversion there! Note the base of each cabinet….
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Kee Games Super Bug here. Nice
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From memory that’s a Gottlieb No Man’s Land. The damp has done interesting things to the paintwork!
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Williams Joust converted to a Konami Super Basketball? (I’m guessing here – someone will correct me I’m sure)
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These two were saved and were dry. Yay!
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Taito Qix cabinet. Dead.
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That’s what’s left of a Stern Berzerk arcade cabinet. I’ll bet there’s salvageable parts in there somewhere though.
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But let’s end on a positive. This is the back end of a Nintendo RadarScope cockpit. One of the rarer arcade parts to get hold of, and this was solid – both sides were pulled out of the basement, which is good news!

Esqueleto tells me that there is a rumour about an Aztarac being found and purchased by another collector in the area. One other equally rare vector that was there for sure was Cosmic Chasm by Cinematronics. So given the other parts that were pulled from Playland’s damp and humid basement, I would imagine tales of a rescued Aztarac is not a totally unrealistic possibility.

It was a pretty sad sight down there. But you have to look on the positive side of things. A great haul of parts and PCBs were saved from the wreckage of the basement. I grabbed Jamma boards including 6-player X-Men, Killer Instinct 2, NFL Blitz, Mortal Kombat 3 and a ton of CPS2 titles.

So what’s the state of Playland now? Well the building was purchased by the local authority and since demolished. The go kart tracks have been ploughed over, so the whole lot is now just a field awaiting development at this point. A few redemption games, Daytona USA machines and basketball games got left behind in what remained of the arcade. Those we hope were saved by the demolition crew.

Here’s a cool video that someone put together of Playland over the years:

So there you have it. A bittersweet raid. The good news is the huge myriad of parts – coin doors, control panels, bezels, PCBs, wiring looms and monitors are out there in the hands of collectors – hopefully now being used to keep other arcade cabinets alive. All was not lost!

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Playland Park: 1969-2018

Thanks as always for reading this week. Huge thanks to KLOV user Esqueleto for the heads up here, and for allowing me to share the pictures and story on Arcade Blogger.

If you have an arcade raid story to share – get in touch!

You can read plenty more arcade raid stories in the archives.

Do feel free to share this article using your favourite social media platform.

See you next time.

Tony

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. neil1637 says:

    Oh man, bittersweet indeed. What a great place though, over the decades. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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