Whether you want to relive fond memories from your childhood or discover something new, Wizard’s World Pinball Arcade, 14613 Lima Road, Fort Wayne, is a “pinball heaven.”
The largest pinball arcade in Indiana, Wizard’s World has grown to also become one of the largest in the world. Owner Mike “The Wizard” Burgess is a pinball enthusiast become operator, sharing his collection of machines with anyone who wants to play.
“I’ve been playing pinball since the early ‘70s when we only had EM (electromagnetic) machines to play,” he recalls. “Being the only employee at the original Wizard’s World in 1980 from the day it opened until the day it closed has always been special to me and definitely established our vision for today. Thinking back, I recall purchasing my first machine in 1986 and the rest is history in the making.”
Burgess re-opened Wizard’s World in 2017 after realizing he wanted to share his home arcade with the public. Most of his seven children were grown, so he and his wife, Trish “Mrs. Wizard” Burgess were ready for a new adventure.
Today, Wizard’s World has 144 ready-to-play pinball machines and Burgess owns 340 machines in total.
“They’re like my children – I love them all the same,” he says. He tries to rotate machines in and out of the store frequently to keep players interested.
“We try to stay out front when it comes to new offerings,” he says. “For example, we just ordered all four of the new James Bond 007 machines from Stern. Rotation is very important to enhancing the variety of play options and maintaining a fresh appearance to our players. Technically speaking, rotation is based on maintenance or refurbishment requirements and customer play count. For example, if play drops on a title, we will reposition or rotate that machine out and replace it with a fresh one.”
Anyone can walk into Wizard’s World and play on the machines, and Burgess hopes visitors have “a pinball experience like no other.” He additionally runs four major tournaments a year for those who want to play more competitively.
Major tournaments include the $500 Silverball Spring Training in March; $12,000 in cash and prizes Wizard’s World War tournament in June; WOW (Women of Wizard’s World) tournament in August (where this year, Burgess hopes to give away a brand-new Stern pinball machine); and the Wizard’s World Championship in December.
“Not only is Wizard’s World among the largest arcades in the world, but we’re also home to several of the top 1,000 players worldwide,” Burgess says. “We’ve been blessed to provide a world-class facility that is constantly evolving into a more challenging and enjoyable destination location for family, friends, school groups and yes, very high-level competition on a regular basis.”
In addition to major tournaments, Wizard’s World hosts weekly tournaments on a smaller scale. The weekly 4-strike tournament takes place every Monday at 7 p.m. (52 times a year), and the Stern Army Boot Camp, where only modern Stern Pinball machines are used, takes place on the third Sunday of every month (12 times a year). The Women’s 4-strike tournament takes place the second and fourth Fridays of the month (24 times per year), and starting in 2023, it will take place every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Finally, the Wiz Kids 3-strike youth tournament takes place the second and fourth Fridays of the month (24 times a year) and will also take place Saturdays at 10 a.m. starting in 2023.
All tournaments are registered on the IFPA Pinball website and details are posted at facebook.com/fwapinball.
Wizard’s World also hosts parties, charity events and special requests.
“We are honored to partner with our community and provide a great resource to help raise funds in a very unique way by orchestrating, running and promoting charity pinball tournaments for various groups,” Burgess says. “One event we were particularly excited to help with last year was when a local middle school’s science class built pinball machines as a project. To support the effort, we were able to provide technical guidance and prizes for the top vote-getters, plus a souvenir for each student.”
Reviews of Wizard’s Pinball on their website tout the arcade as “a great place to take the family.” Machines are consistently praised for their pristine condition and affordable price to play. Other “pinheads” have referred to the arcade as a great place to go on a date or to do something different with friends or family. The staff is also praised for how they treat customers like family.
Burgress himself is praised as a “nonpareil example, without equal, of people who are so devoted to the community that they will do anything. They’ll open their hearts, open their doors and open their wallet to support and uplift and honor the people who make their arcade not only a game room, but an actual community meeting room.”
Wizard’s World opens at noon seven days a week. On Mondays, the arcade is open until 11 p.m. – or whenever the weekly tourney is over – while Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are open until 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays until 10 p.m.; and Sunday until 8 p.m. Each machine is cash only and cost ranges from a single quarter to $1 per game. Machines vary from antique mechanical to new, high-tech, state-of-the art games.
“Our team is presently working toward expanding the collection to well over 200 pinball machines before our big Wizard’s World War tournament in June,” Burgress adds. “In 2021, we were excited to host 108 players and gave away a brand-new Stern Pinball machine, along with loads of cash prizes. We set out to build a world-class championship pinball venue that hosted tournaments and was also open to the public year-round. We’re back on track and certainly looking forward to another capstone tournament this summer.”
For more information, visit fortwaynepinball.com. ❚