New Hononegah Pinball Club quickly gaining popularity


Photo: Pixel Paradise

Hononegah Community High School has a new club that is the first of its kind. The Hononegah Pinball Club is already seeing great interest that continues to grow.

HCHS senior Lyons Buckley is the founder of this unique club.

Buckley reflects, “I have been playing pinball for almost a year now locally and didn't have the idea to start a club until recently.”

“I was first introduced to the game last summer when my dad and I were out having lunch at a restaurant that had a few pinball machines after one of my football practices. We checked them out and were approached by a man who ended up being a local pinball tournament director. He talked us through his advanced gameplay, and before you know it, I was hooked,” Buckley said.

Buckley expanded interest by involving his friends. “Playing pinball together in the little free time we had between our busy schedules and sports became the easiest way for us to get to hang out over the summer,” Buckley said.

Buckley has now participated in nine tournaments to earn a ranking among the top 10,000 competitors worldwide. “I have made friends with many members of the local pinball community,” Buckley said.

“Spending so much time socializing with my friends through pinball and improving at the game over time helped me to view what I once saw as an escape from my busy life to a hobby that my friends and I now go out of the way to experience,” Buckley says.

“This quick development made me wonder if others could use pinball the same way I did. I thought the best way to raise awareness for the game and bring people together around a shared interest in pinball would be to form a club.”

Buckley first approached one of his track coaches, Todd Eccles, with the idea and asked if he would agree to be the upcoming club’s sponsor. “Being a pinball enthusiast as well, he agreed to support and be a part of my pinball club endeavor,” Buckley said.

“Mr. Eccles owns a pinball machine himself and is ranked among the top 5,000 pinball players in the world.”

Buckley wrote out his visions and goals for the club and presented his idea to Hononegah High School’s principal and athletic director, who both loved it.

Buckley had the opportunity to attend the February HCHS school board meeting, where the decision was made to allow a pinball club to materialize. Buckley spoke to the board about his intentions for the club: to bring together any and all Hononegah students who share an interest in pinball in a social and competitive setting at meetings and events.

At the club’s first meeting, members signed up and speeches were given on what the club wants to accomplish this year and into the future. “We plan to have the majority of future meetings at Pixel Paradise Arcade in Roscoe where we will have pinball machines on site and at our disposal,” Buckley said.

“A meeting calendar is still in the works, but after receiving club member availability, it is looking like we will be able to meet at least twice a month.”

At the club’s inaugural meeting, 23 students signed up to be members. Four more Hononegah students who could not attend the first meeting have signed up since then, and countless others have expressed interest in the club and the next meeting date.

Buckley has been in contact with the owner of the pinball machines at the location where the club will be playing. “I am looking into what will be most cost effective for pinball club members,” Buckley said.

The pinball club is set up in an official capacity with Mr. Eccles as sponsor, Lyons Buckley as president and HCHS junior John McKenzie as vice president. McKenzie will be ready to take over the club next year since Buckley will be graduating. “John shares a passion for pinball and has competed with me at multiple tournaments in the last few months,” Buckley shares.

Club members will play individually and against one another; however, four people are able to play on a pinball machine at one time. Players use sills that involve plunging the ball at specific intervals to achieve skill shots worth tons of points when starting out turns, successfully making a series of shots in a specific order to complete an objective worth even more points, and nudging the machines themselves at calculated intensities to avoid tilting the machine and losing a turn, but also saving the silver ball from slipping between flippers or the out lances, both actions leading to the termination of a turn. If one is able to master these skills, racking up millions of points in one turn becomes easy.

“Teachers at Hononegah expressed admiration and support when I announced I will be starting a pinball club, especially Spanish teacher Mrs. Weldon who helped me organize various online resources to help me communicate directly to club members via Google Classroom,” Buckley said. Many community members also have communicated their support.

Local pinball machine operators and various top ranked competitors in Illinois have even said they could come to meetings to speak on their experiences with pinball, even run workshops on how to repair problems that come up on different pins (pinball machines) for those interested in the mechanics of a pinball machine and how they work.

Buckley adds, “Surprisingly, even major pinball companies Stern Pinball and Jersey Jack Pinball have been in contact with me about the club and expressed support of the club, both saying that they will see what they can do to help out. All in all, it appears pinball may be on the rise again!”

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