Chicago area home to oldest, largest pinball manufacturer in USA

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - How do you construct fun?

Start with a year’s worth of development and a million dollars. Shake in 3,500 parts and 30 hours of production. And the result is the most fun you can get for a quarter.

The brightly lit history of pinball has bumped and bopped its way across America but that silver ball has always managed to roll its way back into Chicago.

For most of the last century, our city has served as a Mecca for pinball design, production and distribution – proving that no one knows how to press those buttons like we do.

Gary Stern is the CEO and president of Stern Pinball, the oldest and largest pinball manufacturer in America – located right outside of Chicago.

And he’s seen the business change.

While there were once more than 145 pinball companies around the country, most of them located in the Chicagoland area -- Stern Pinball is now one of the surviving few.

But for those who have survived, the battle continues.

Steve Ritchie would know. Not only is he the senior game designer at Stern Pinball, he is the highest selling pinball game designer of all time. And his work, which is licensed, designed, produced and distributed all within the walls of this Elk Grove Village factory, comes down to respecting the timelessness of the game.

What was once an illegal game across America has now become a staple of childhoods around the world.

Chicago may not have been where pinball was born, but it’s where it was raised, where it flourished and where it will hopefully continue to survive.

So grab a quarter, it’s time to play.


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