ELKO — Coin-op video arcades, vanished echoes from the 1980s, have spawned their second life at Modz Arcade in historic downtown Elko.
Chris Symes started the new family fun center after his success opening Modified Vapors.
“I thought, ‘What does Elko need? What doesn’t Elko have?’ And voila – my dream came true.”
“It gives kids a place to go and have fun, be themselves,” Symes said, “Without being bullied, or peer pressure, or being on the streets.”
No stranger to fun, Symes helped open Elko’s first skateboard park in “the early 1990s” by Southside Park, at the site of today’s tennis and basketball courts.
Modz Arcade fuses 21st century entertainment into Elko’s 1800s architecture. Jan Peterson, director of the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum two doors west, said the Modz building was originally Live and Let Live Grocery Store, owned by local character Hiram Chase until his death in 1905. The Commercial Street building later hosted Elko Floors and Furnishings.
“You can’t have an arcade unless you have Pac Man, Dig-Dug, and Galaga,” Symes said, and offers a single-game console playing cloned versions of all those arcade classics, plus a few others.
Modz Arcade leveled up from mountains of quarters into digital swipe cards. Player cards hold game credits, and also make it easier for players to track, save, and build up their “tickets” won.
Several video games offer tickets exchangeable at the gift shop. Also available are air hockey (an analog version of the arcade classic “Pong!”), pool, darts, and a free throw booth.
Pinball wizards can tourney against two machines, themed after Deadpool and Star Wars.
“I’d like to put in a whole Pinball Alley upstairs along the mezzanine, but you can’t have an alley with just two pinball machines,” Symes said.
“I get new games that last,” he said. “I get new ones with warranties, and I fix them myself. When you lease them, you don’t know what happened to them before.” To ensure getting a new one, Symes drove to Las Vegas to pick up his Deadpool pinball machine.
Their latest arrival is a Walking Dead two-player shooting game.
Modz Arcade features greaseless air-fryers in their snack bar, and plans to offer ice cream in the future. The bar offers 17 beers and the usual mixable spirits.
The dining booths, under the antique mezzanine, view four TV screens displaying sports and skateboarding videos.
“The Sunday Ticket, it’s first come, first served Sunday morning, and you can pick which game that screen will play all day, until you leave,” Symes said.
Their private room offers packages for five, 10, or 15 children of all ages, and includes pizza and $10 game cards for each guest.
“That’s been really popular ever since we opened,” he said.
Symes wants to expand his game selection as he gets more customers, and also plans to expand his family fun center when he can find the right property.
“I’d like to offer go-carts and batting cages, and even miniature golf some day,” Symes said.