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Author: The CEO

Portland Pinbrawl 2015 – And the winner is…

Players battled it out on over 30 pinball machines in fantastic condition thanks to our techs. Photo by Dylan Higgins.

Players battled it out on over 30 pinball machines in fantastic condition thanks to our techs. Photo by Dylan Higgins.

Mako Honig locked in an epic game of "Funhouse" where one shot could make or break a champ. Photo by JohnNils Olson.

This year’s Portland Pinbrawl once again had an exciting finish! The final match pitted Maka Honig of Seattle against Raymond Davidson, also of Seattle. Maka reached the final undefeated, and Raymond’s only loss was to Maka on “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Being a double elimination tournament, Raymond needed to beat Maka twice to emerge victorious, and could not afford to lose a match. The pressure was on!

Portland Pinbrawl 2015’s finals machine was “Funhouse”, the 1990 Williams classic designed by the legendary Pat Lawlor. It’s a tough and very unforgiving table, and scoring 5 million will usually earn you a replay. Being really good at pinball, both players had no trouble doing so.

Raymond quickly won the first two games and thus the first match, then won the first game of the second match, putting the pressure on Maka. For him it was win or go home time, and he won the second game handily.

After 13 hours of playing pinball, it all came down to one game. The winner would take home the grand prize of $750 cash and the 2015 Pinhead Trophy. The loser would take home $500 – and the regret of having come so close without succeeding. Maka led with a strong ball 1, and continued to build his lead on balls 2 and 3, finishing with 18,752,830 points. When Raymond stepped up to play his final ball, he only had 6,592,500 points. Many thought the deficit was too large to overcome. But Raymond chipped away at it, until he activated Funhouse’s “Millions” mode. Each shot into the trap door would score more points. 1 million. 2 million. 3 million. Suddenly, Raymond had 15,453,500 points, and one more shot would score 4 million, pushing his score past Maka’s. Could he do it before the trap door closed? The seconds ticked down. Raymond lined up his shot…yes! The ball went in the trap door, putting him in the lead. There was no more to play for, so he turned around, victorious. After the bonus was counted, Raymond’s final score was 21,729,800, almost 3 million more than Maka’s. If he hadn’t made that last shot, things may have ended differently.

Raymond Davidson takes on "Funhouse", a tough game that demanded precise play. Photo by JohnNils Olson.

The final results:

1st Raymond Davidson
2nd Maka Honig
3rd Tim Tournay
4th Aaron Nelson (a previous Portland Pinbrawl champion)
5th Kevin Birrell
Garret Hays
7th Kevin Nickel
Andy Cobb
9th Jeff Gagnon (also a previous champion)
Blake Mitchell
Robert Gagno (another past champion)
Todd Rafacz

We’d like to thank Raymond and Maka for the suspenseful final matches as well as everyone else who competed, Isaac Ruiz and Team Brackelope for officiating a very well-run tournament, PAPA for sanctioning Portland Pinbrawl as part of their official tournament circuit, PBR for promotional prize items and a tent, Hopworks Urban Brewery for more prize items, and last but not least, the Ground Kontrol tech team for tuning our tables to tournament trim.

If you missed out, don’t worry – Ground Kontrol will host Portland Pinbrawl 2016 next April. Save your quarters, and start practicing now!

Ground Kontrol CEO Jeffrey McEachin awards Portland Pinbrawl 2015 Champion Raymond Davidson the coveted "Pinhead" trophy. Photo by JohnNils Olson.

Ground Kontrol CEO Jeffrey McEachin awards Portland Pinbrawl 2015 Champion Raymond Davidson the coveted “Pinhead” trophy. Photo by JohnNils Olson.


Categories: Arcade News

Pac-Man Battle Royale!


Oh, by the way – did you know that Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade has the hottest new classic arcade game – Pac-Man Battle Royale? This exciting new game had been on our arcade floor since we reopened in mid-February, but in the excitement of moving back into our fancy remodeled digs, we totally forgot to publicize it.  :O

As you may know, Ground Kontrol specializes in preserving classic games of all eras.  That means we typically don’t buy games until they’ve earned “classic” status.   Pac-Man Battle Royale is the first game we’ve seen in a long time that we feel is an instant classic.  And so, it’s the first brand new game we’ve purchased in our 12 year history.  In fact, we were so excited to play Pac-Man Battle Royale that we bought the first one to arrive at the local game distributor!

If you’ve never played Pac-Man Battle Royale, you’re in for a treat.  Namco has done a superb job of updating their classic Pac-Man franchise as a 4-player multigame.  Not only can you compete against your friends in eating  pac-dots and ghosts, but eating a power-pill supersizes your Pac-Man and allows you to eat your fellow Pac-Men, too!  The maze is constantly shifting shapes, and reversals of fortune happen swiftly and often.  You may feel compelled to yell with surprise or excitement – that’s ok, that’s part of the fun of playing Pac-Man Battle Royale!


Categories: Arcade News

Portland Pinbrawl Results – Coming Soon!

Congrats to Mike Mahaffey!

Closing Again For Remodeling

After much debate, the Ground Kontrol brain trust has agreed that our futuristic TRON look, as cool as it is, is just not old-school arcade enough. Therefore, we are tentatively planning on closing from May 1 until August 1 to “de-model”.

After ripping out the laser sinks and glowing tables, we’ll have room for some “new” stuff we’ve been saving since the ’80s.  Among the highlights:

  • Animatronic lounge band, rescued from the dumpsters behind some other arcade chain;
  • Bright fluorescent lighting; and
  • The original GK carpet (Yes, we save everything.)

When we’re done, we guarantee that there will be no escaping the authentic sights, sounds and smells of those ’80s kiddie parlors you know and love.

Check back here at www.groundkontrol.com for further details!

Categories: From The CEO

The Inside Story On Our Crazy Double Move

Ground Kontrol has moved once again, into 10 NW 5th Ave. after staying at 32 NW 5th Ave. for only one week. Why? Well, it’s an interesting story…

When we learned that our big remodel of 511 NW Couch St. would take nearly two months to complete, we decided that it was far too long a time for our employees to be out of work and for you, our loyal fans to be without your arcade fix. So, we made the decision to temporarily move the entire arcade to a “warp zone.” But where?

Our first choice was 32 NW 5th, which is catty-corner to our original space and also co-owned by our current landlord. Unfortunately, that space didn’t have its own restrooms. Worse, it was slated for its own remodel in January to become a new home for our friends at Floating World Comics.

Another space was available two doors down, at 10 NW 5th. It had excellent restrooms and was in the process of having a new storefront installed. This seemed perfect, so we made plans to move there instead.

Disaster struck when the construction crew working on its facade found a steel column instead of a concrete column, necessitating new engineering calculations, a new steel beam to be fabricated, and a plan resubmittal to the city. This pushed 10 NW 5th’s availability down two weeks. We had to find an interim home for the Warp Zone, and fast!

Luckily, the 32 NW 5th space was available, but only for 10 days, after which PICA would move in for a one-day event. 10 NW 5th was supposed to be ready by then, so we decided to move twice, thus reducing our closure time from 10 days to only 3 days. Getting approval from the OLCC, the city, and our insurance agent for all this shuffling was a chore, but we made it happen. Everything seemed set.

Unfortunately, construction at 10 NW 5th was delayed again, leaving the space with no front doors. (!!) Luckily, the contractors found some old swinging doors in the basement, quickly installed them, and got an okay from the city inspector. We moved in later than we expected, and weren’t able to open until 9PM last night, but Ground Kontrol is once again open for business every day during our usual hours. (Our new doors and glass storefront won’t be installed until next week, but we’ll manage.)

We couldn’t have done any of this without the help of our awesome landlord David Gold. We admired what how he’s put his properties to work providing artists’ space in the Goldsmith Building and bringing interesting retailers such as Floating World and Seven Planet to our neighborhood. He’s also working to replace the giant parking lot on Block 33 with a mixed-use building anchored by Uwajamiya, and plans to turn the old Grove Hotel into a youth hostel (another great idea.)

It’s highly unusual for a business to move twice in 10 days, but Ground Kontrol isn’t your usual business. 😉 And hey, all this practice will come in handy when we move back into our newly remodeled digs at the original 511 NW Couch St. location!

Yes, We Are OPEN!

Tonight, after experiencing some unanticipated problems, the GK krew opened the new Ground Kontrol Warp Zone, our new (and temporary) home away from home at 10 NW 5th, just a block from GK.  We had a huge crowd eagerly waiting outside for the doors to open, and they were rewarded with extended Happy Hour pricing and great music from DJs LED & Epor.  We had a few balky pinball tables, and Paperboy has gotten extremely dim, but otherwise it’s the same great gaming experience you expect from Ground Kontrol, just with black lights and more elbow room.

The Warp Zone entrance (viewed from Burnside)

We know our new front door and entry are not up to snuff, but we hope to resolve that next week!

How Do You Move A Bar?

Answer: Get 5 strong guys to pick it up, put 4 furniture dollies underneath it, strap the bar to them, and hope you don’t have any tight corners to go around.

Yesterday afternoon, the GK moving crew wheeled our bar across the street to The Warp Zone, our home away from home.  Less than an hour later, it was back in operation and serving up drinks to happy Christmas partygoers at the private event rental that kicked off our new (and temporary) location.  Be sure to check it out soon!

More On GK 3.0

Some people have asked – if we’re not expanding, then why are we remodeling?

We know some of you love GK just the way it is, but we feel like it could be even better.  Things the remodel will improve:

  • The Bar – some people want liquor, and we can’t serve that without food.
  • Food – sometimes you work up an appetite playing NBA Jam, and we can’t serve that without a kitchen.
  • Seating – we’re adding a dedicated lounge area near the bar.  The tables and seating will be unlike anything you’ve seen.
  • Restrooms – we’re hoping our new restrooms will make you forget how sad our current ones are.
  • Flooring – our carpet doesn’t handle spills too well, so we’re going with LEED-certified recycled rubber flooring.
  • Ambience – TRON is one of our big influences, and our new look will put you in the TRON universe.

Sneak peak pics soon!

Categories: From The CEO

Bad News, Good News

First the bad news – unfortunately, our grand plans for expanding our mezzanine ran afoul of the International Building Code.  It says the mezzanine can’t be any bigger.  In fact, it may have to get smaller. 🙁  We’re working on possible solutions to this nasty problem, and hope to have it resolved soon!

The good news: We’ve been working with Jessica Helgerson Interior Design since the summer, and hired Lackey Construction to oversee the remodel, and now we’re almost ready to begin. In fact, demolition and construction may start as early as December 1st!

During the remodel, Ground Kontrol’s bar and games will be set up in a temporary space across the street, code-named the “Warp Zone.” We’ll have to close for a day or two to set it up but, once the Warp Zone is ready, you can expect to enjoy something pretty darn close to the Ground Kontrol experience you know and love while the original is being remodeled.

JHID designers Jessica and Emily really get what Ground Kontrol is about, and we’re excited about the plans they have created. We hope to share those plans and the behind-the-scenes construction along the way!

Categories: From The CEO

Dashed Dreams (Our Former Expansion Plans)

UPDATE : As this post says, “our plans are bound to change”.  Change they did, forced by the harsh reality of the International Building Code’s requirements and our limited remodel budget.  Unfortunately, we CANNOT expand our second floor and  the plans depicted below are simply not possible.  I’m leaving the bulk of my original post, though, as a historical footnote.

When we first moved to Old Town/Chinatown, we had more space than we had games.  But we kept finding classics we had to have, and as we added to our collection, the arcade floor got more and more crowded.  With that in mind, we started exploring how we could expand GK while staying in the same location.

After a lot of work, we came up with a plan we like.  The only problem was, it cost more money than we had.  That is, until we won Stride Gum’s “Save the Arcades” contest!  Since we promised to spend the prize money on an expansion, now seems like a good time to take the wraps off our plans and show them to the public.

Below are some stills from a 3d model I built using Google Sketchup.  They represent what we’d like to do.  Our plans are bound to change in various ways as they become reality, so stick with us and we’re sure you’ll be happy with the final results!

Click pictures to magnify.

This is the view from the front door.  You’ll notice that the second floor mezzanine has been extended to the front of the building.  There’s also a new wall and door leading to the new kitchen area, with a place of honor for our Dig-Dug stained glass.  We’re hoping to leave the central area open, to make it easier to get to the bar on busy nights.

Sitting at the bar, looking at the new seating area.  We’ve never been happy with our seating on the “stage”, and hope the bench seating will be a huge improvement.

Don’t worry, Rock Band fans – we’ll have a mini-stage that we can setup for Rock Band Tuesdays, with lots more seating for the audience.

This is the main driving row, relocated to where the stage currently is.

A view of the east arcade, reoriented to have wider aisles.  No more getting cut off from the bathroom by two big dudes on stools sitting back-to-back!

Another view of the east arcade.

The new Shooters’  Alley, featuring more gun games.

We’ve never been happy with our restrooms, so we’re hoping to make them better by remodeling them.  We’re thinking about using tile with black grout to discourage taggers and provide a canvas for some pixelated video game artwork.

Walking up the curved stairway. There’s a new curved wall on the left, and the DJ booth is still on the right.

Moving upstairs, here’s the view from the top of the stairs.  We’re taking out the wall that’s currently there to create a more open space.  You may notice a few pins that aren’t in our current lineup – we haven’t bought them yet, but they’re on our wish list!

All the fighting games are grouped together, with more space between them.

Looking at the new space on the east side of the mezzanine.  I’m sorry that most of the cabinets are generic – we haven’t had time to go into our storage unit to measure them yet..

Here’s the southeast end of the mezzanine, featuring DDR, the return of Gauntlet II, and more sit-down drivers.

Back at the top of the curved stairs, there will be an upstairs seating area.

The seats will afford a good overview of the arcade.

This side of the west mezzanine will be much as it is now. The far side is all new space.

The view from the southwest corner of the mezzanine. That’s a lot of pinball!

We hope you’ve enjoyed the tour! And we hope that you’ll be able to experience something similar at Ground Kontrol in the not-too-distant future! If you have any suggestions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!

PS Thank you, Isaac, for building the game models!