In December last year, Pinball News met with Pinball Expo co-organiser Rob Berk to discuss changes he wanted to make to the show.
There had been a feeling at the previous event held in October than significant changes needed to be made to prevent Expo shrinking due to reduced levels of support from vendors, exhibitors, manufacturers, machine donors, speakers and visitors. Shows such as the Texas Pinball Festival, Pintastic, Replay FX, the NW Pinball Show, the Mid-West Gaming Classic and the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo have all grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and while Expo is still unrivalled in terms of having most of the pinball manufacturers and industry professionals on its doorstep, those other shows have been more than happy to fly in pinball guests to bolster their list of attractions while pinball manufacturers have been setting up in other parts of the US.
Pinball Expo has been run by Rob Berk and Mike Pacak since its inception. Rob brought together the collectors and the fans while Mike brought in the manufacturers through his operator connections, but there has been a clear difference of opinion between the two over the future direction of the show. Mike’s attitude in his dealings with vendors, exhibitors, machine donors and volunteers has also been cited as a major reason certain companies and individuals have been boycotting Expo.
Rob told Pinball News of his plans to split with Mike and set up his own show for 2018. No firm details were available at the time but, with Expo 2018’s dates having been announced at the end of 2017’s show, we urged Rob to let everyone know as soon as possible in case people were planning flights or hotel accommodation. We put an advisory on our Diary listing for Pinball Expo warning of a possible date change.
Now Rob has given more details, with his show being called Pinball Palooza and provisional dates set for one month earlier than the previously-announced Pinball Expo dates. Pinball Palooza is planned for 12th-15th September, 2018, and the venue is expected to be in the north-western Chicago suburb of Schaumberg.
While Rob told Pinball News he believes he owns the Pinball Expo name, he didn’t want any argument over brand ownership to delay the announcement and planning for his new show, hence the new Pinball Palooza name. Meanwhile, Mike has stated that he will go ahead with Pinball Expo – or a differently-named show – on the original dates at the Expo host hotel, the Westin in Wheeling, working with his son Lonnie. He said he thought it was unfair to visitors to change dates or venue at this late stage.
Pinball News was also consulted about issues with the existing Pinball Expo format, how the seminar schedule could be boosted, what could be done to bring the boycotters back on board, and what new features could be added to help grow the show.
For now we await fuller details about Pinball Palooza and Mike’s planned show, and will be interviewing Rob in detail about his plans later this month.