Manchester grants exemption for new pinball museum-arcade

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MANCHESTER — When Manchester's leaders passed an ordinance years ago in reaction to misbehavior at and around arcades, they likely never dreamed those arcade games would become sought-after antiques, or that a museum housing them would seek permission to set up on Main Street.

But a pinball museum and arcade could soon be added to this town's attractions. And on Monday, the Manchester Select Board unanimously approved an exemption to a town ordinance that allowed businesses no more than two game tables and four video game machines.

The decision paves the way for the museum-arcade, Pastime Pinball, to apply for a local zoning permit.

Pastime Pinball plans to install up to 50 pinball machines in downtown Manchester, said Beth Friedman, who is opening the business with her husband Marty Friedman. They plan to set up shop on a Main Street location that previously housed Overland Sheepskin.

Their place will have pinball machines from the 1950s to the present day, and each will include information on the machine's history, Beth said in a phone interview from the couple's base in New Jersey.

"There's just nothing to do in town but shop," Craig Hunter, an executive at Manchester Designer Outlets, owner of the space that Pastime Pinball is interested in leasing, told Select Board members Monday. "We love to shop ... But having other things to do would be good."

The museum-arcade would also offer young people more activities in town, Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie said.

Board Vice Chairman Wayne Bell said the business's concept is "flavored more like a family activity."

Manchester apparently passed the ordinance limiting the number of commercial game tables and video game machines sometime in the 1970s as a response to loitering and other prohibited behavior at or near arcades.

"People just decided they were kind of fed up with police having to (intervene)," Beattie said in an interview after the meeting.

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Pastime Pinball plans to operate from Thursday to Monday, but it could remain open the rest of the week if there's enough demand, Beth said. Users will be charged an hourly rate, during which they can play as much as they want.

The business, which also plans to serve food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, hopes to open by Labor Day weekend. The Friedmans own a home in Wardsboro but plan to move to Manchester permanently.

The Select Board meeting also touched on the town's plan to build a splash pad to replace an out-of-commission kiddie pool at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park. The kiddie pool will be demolished this spring, and the splash pad would open a year later.

Town Manager John O'Keefe spoke to board members about the need to raise about $100,000 to build the splash pad and a new basketball court after the state turned down Manchester's application for a $125,000 grant.

The town will be holding fundraising activities till the fall to raise money for the projects. The money on hand at that point will influence how big the splash pad will be, O'Keefe said.

The state declined to say why Manchester's grant application was denied, O'Keefe told the Journal. "We're gonna provide a first-rate park with or without state support," he said.

A splash pad is an outdoor play area with sprinklers, fountains, nozzles and other devices that spray water. It doesn't require a lifeguard by regulation, O'Keefe said.

Monday's meeting was Steven Nichols' last as a Select Board member. His three-year term ends next week, and he chose not to run for re-election.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com,

@tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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