Old school entertainment pitched for Vernon Hills

New gadgets are fine, but the desire for old-school entertainment is strong, says Neil Bryson, a Vernon Hills resident, who wants to turn his passion for pinball into a business.

He and fellow pinball geek Jeff Hooper, a friend from Lincolnshire, have targeted a small shopping center on the southwest corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Route 45 for SkillShots Pinball Inc., a gaming center for those who love the tactile experience.

“It started as we loved pinball,” Bryson said. “We started buying machines. We just decided, ‘There seems to be so many other people who wanted to play the machines, why don’t we just do this?’”

The pair is seeking a special-use permit to allow for an arcade for electronic games in a vacant space facing Route 45. The business would feature two dozen or more machines, including some vintage models from the 1970s.

The village’s planning and zoning commission recommended approval, and the village board will discuss the idea Tuesday during an informal work session following its regular meeting at 7 p.m. at Village Hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.

Offerings will be geared to casual players and enthusiasts. Walk-in players will pay an hourly fee, but the core of the business will be members who play on a regular basis.

Information provided to the village estimated 2,000 potential members in Lake County and surrounding areas. Tournaments, birthday and private parties are also envisioned.

“They’re looking to do some interesting things,” said John Kalmar, assistant village manager.

The report to the planning and zoning commission noted newer machines have made significant improvements to internal sound systems and that sound carrying between tenants spaces should be addressed.

Bryson said that although there will be a vintage feel to the arcade, the pair also plans to feature new, cutting-edge games. He said Chicago is known for its pinball heritage, with several manufactures in the area, and that the market is in a renaissance.

“Pinball is special because it’s 3-D interactive. You’re dealing with actual objects instead of just video,” he said. “It’s a very interactive experience, which is why we love it.”

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