Hamilton’s ‘ambassador of fun’ adds new experience games to arcade

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Phase 3 of the Pinball Garage expansion is complete and includes Hamilton’s second roller coaster.

In what was previously 1,000 square feet for manufacturing Brad Baker’s former VPcabs business, which he sold a couple of years ago, there are now several new “super-premium” arcade games at 113 N. Third St. These games include two-player experiences such as a dancing game called Step Maniax, high-tech pop-a-shot with multiplayer and single-player modes, Halo, and high-end digital Pac-Man skeeball.

“Our goal with this space was to add more experience games,” said Baker, who also owns All8Up on North Third across Market Street. “The whole purpose to this was to reorganize something we’ve already have and bring in a bunch of new experience arcade games.”

The expansion includes the relocation of some existing games to make room for new ones, such as Mario Kart, throughout the facility. In all, the expansion will add 25 new games.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“We want to bring the folks to Hamilton the experience they would have at a much bigger place,” he said. “We’re not likely to be a Dave and Buster’s kind of place, size-wise, but we have the type of games they bring.”

Whether it’s at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill ― which is also home to Baker’s Champion Mill Arcade with Hamilton’s first roller coaster, a 12-track VR game ― or the Third Street Pinball Garage, it keeps visitors and their spending money in Hamilton.

The latest VR roller coaster includes lands with zombies, terminators and dinosaurs.

Pinball Garage was never intended to be the arcade capital of Hamilton. In fact, the only games Baker was interested when he moved into 113 N. Third St., was his VPcabs business, which manufactured virtual pinball machines

“If you would tell me I would even open Pinball Garage I would even consider buying these games, my mind couldn’t comprehend it because they’re so expensive,” said Baker.

He never thought he’d be opening a bar with pinball games, either, and would have never thought he’d be making his money back experience games that could run upwards of $20,000. Baker and his business partner have invested more than $1 million in games at Pinball Garage, and around $750,000 at the Champion Mill Arcade at Spooky Nook Sports on North B Street where he leases space.

Baker said the Hamilton business community invited him with open arms when he launched Pinball Garage about seven years ago.

“Brad is Hamilton’s ambassador of fun,” said Jim Goodman, a co-owner of Municipal Brew Works. “I’m stoked for him. He’s a force of nature and has this boundless energy for the betterment of the community.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Baker’s philanthropy and “boundless energy of good and positive vibes” helped earn him the 2022 Hamilton Citizen of the Year, which was highlighted by being the first business to help Hanover Reserve Weddings & Events in Hanover Twp. following a devastating fire in 2021.

The expansions are not surprising, said Goodman, adding, “It’s hard not to cheer for somebody that like him.”

But owning an arcade-restaurant-bar business was never in Baker’s dreams.

VPcabs was Baker’s company that made virtual pinball machines, and he sought an investor on Shark Tank in 2016. He struck a deal with entrepreneur Daymond John, and the sale of VPcabs a couple of years ago made the space for the arcade games.

“We came here with only the dream of manufacturing,” he said. “When we came here almost seven years ago, we rented this place just for VPcabs.”

This latest development phase was a year in the making.

“We’ve been trying to find a way to make this happen,” Baker said, adding he and his team focused on brainstorming over the winter and started the renovation process about six weeks ago.

The new experience games will be available today.

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