NEWTOWN, CT -- The International Flipper Pinball Association recently hosted a pinball tournament at the Sandy Hook Arcade, delivering an added element of family-friendly competition to the recently opened venue. The arcade was founded by two Newtown residents as a meeting place to help families in the Connecticut town come together and heal from the tragic Dec. 14 school shootings. Residents will always play for free.
Competitors in the four-hour tournament on March 16 were grouped into three divisions: 12 and under, 6 and under, and a parent/child combined team. IFPA cofounder and tournament director Steven Epstein said he was deeply moved by the response.
"I must tell you, seeing the excitement and joy on these kids' faces was confirmation of my beliefs," Epstein said. "I have always maintained our industry is a valuable part of people's entertainment experience, but seeing firsthand a community of people suffering through an unimaginable tragedy respond to our games in such a positive way is living proof we are part of the solution not the problem."
Andrew Clure and Scott Cicciari, collectors of coin machines, opened the doors to The Sandy Hook Arcade Center in February, with support from local and national businesses (including Betson and more than a dozen amusement factories), town officials and fellow residents. The arcade operates three weekdays after school and on weekends. The two operators will use donations and proceeds from out-of-town guests to cover overhead for their not-for-profit venture and will donate the remainder to Newtown.
PHOTO: IFPA's Steve Epstein (r.) and Sandy Hook Arcade founders Scott Cicciari (l.) and Andrew Clure congratulate young pinball wizard at the Newtown, CT, location. [Photos rotating above were taken at the arcade during the IFPA tournament on March 16.]
"This town is struggling and we really wanted to do something to help," said Clure. "For us, this is not a business; it's simply our commitment as parents and residents to promote one of the core values in Newtown -- family."
The arcade has games for all ages, including drivers, pinball and air hockey, along with player stations for XBOX Kinect.
"What started as a temporary refuge for a devastated community hopefully can turn into a permanent place for the healing to continue," commented Epstein. "I am going to try my best to help them achieve this goal and hope our industry can pitch in to further that goal. Much help will be needed; please open your hearts when they call out for our help."