Funspot Family Fun Center
Entrance to Funspot
|Former names||Weirs Sports Center|
|Alternative names||American Classic Arcade Museum (third floor space)|
|Address||579 Endicott Street North|
|Town or city||Weirs Beach, Laconia, New Hampshire|
|Opened||June 27, 1952|
Funspot Family Entertainment Center (or simply Funspot) is a video arcade which features one of the largest collections of late-1970s to mid-1980s games in the world. It is located in the village of Weirs Beach in Laconia, New Hampshire, United States. Founded in 1952 by Bob Lawton, Funspot includes over 500 video games, pinball machines, and ticket redemption machines; outdoor and indoor miniature golf courses; 20-lane ten-pin and candlepin bowling; cash bingo; a restaurant; and a tavern.
Funspot was officially named the "Largest Arcade in the World" by Guinness World Records at the 10th Annual International Classic Video Game and Pinball Tournament, held from May 29 through June 1, 2008. The Galloping Ghost arcade in suburban Chicago has since billed itself as the "Largest Arcade in the USA."
Originally called the Weirs Sports Center, and located across the street from the Weirs Beach boardwalk, Funspot moved in 1964 to its current home on Route 3. There are 300 games from the 1970s and 1980s on the floor at any one time in the American Classic Arcade Museum section of Funspot, with another 100 housed in a warehouse. Billy Baker of The Boston Globe called the museum "the Louvre of the '8-bit' world."
Funspot first opened as the Weirs Sports Center on June 27, 1952, in the top floor of Tarlson's Arcade building across from the Weirs Beach boardwalk. It was opened by then 21-year-old Bob Lawton as an indoor miniature golf course and penny arcade with $750 USD borrowed from his grandmother. On the first day the center was open it made $36.60 from miniature golf admission and $5.60 from selling soft drinks. A round of 9-hole mini-golf cost 35 cents.
In 1964, Funspot was created when Lawton bought 21 acres (8.5 ha) of land, the same land where Funspot now sits, and moved his entertainment venture there. The first attraction built was a miniature golf course and an adjacent building. This course came to be known as the "Landmarks of New Hampshire" miniature golf course. A small clubhouse was also built next to the course, and in 1965 it was expanded into a 4,000-square-foot (370 m2) billiards room. This was the first of several additions to Funspot.
In 1971, Funspot opened the first of two theme parks on its Route 3 campus. Named "Indian Village", it was described by the president of the American Indian Lore Association, Chief Red Dawn, in 1973 as, "A village of life-size habitats - reconstructed from historical blueprints, representing major Indian cultural areas of North America." Buildings ranged from a "Nookta Whaling Shrine," to a "Mandan Earth lodge," to "Plains Indians Teepees." Indian Village closed in 1983.
A second theme park, Storybook Forest, was opened in 1976. This park was themed after children's nursery rhymes and fairy tales. One of the main attractions in Storybook Forest was "Gingerbread Man Pond", a pond created in the shape of a running gingerbread man, with two large buttons. The buttons housed Robinson Crusoe's hut and cave. There were also multiple fiberglass sculptures of story characters that are currently spread out around the kiddie areas of Funspot. When Storybook Forest closed, all of the attractions were removed with the exception of the red school house.
In 1980, Funspot switched from quarters to tokens. Funspot expanded over the years, opening satellite locations in Wolfeboro, Concord, Dover, and Amherst in New Hampshire, as well as South Portland, Maine, and Port Richey, Florida. By the mid-1990s these satellite locations had closed one at a time, with the location in Florida being the last to close. It was transformed into another arcade, Stop N' Play, which is still open. The bowling center, featuring both ten-pin and candlepin, was added to Funspot in 1988, and the bingo hall was added in 1996.
Funspot was named "World's Largest Arcade" by Guinness World Records in 2008. The American Classic Arcade Museum alone has more than 300 pre-1988 video games and pinball machines. In 2009, the outdoor minigolf course was almost torn out, and a restaurant put in its place, but it was saved due to its historical value. Bob Lawton said, "When we opened it in 1964, we were the only ones in the Lakes Region that had minigolf, but then several opened up. Last year, we decided we wouldn't close it and we were going to keep it. It's historic; the buildings are fantastic." There is currently an empty lot next to the outdoor minigolf course where Funspot has been talking to hotel chains such as Best Western, Hilton, and Marriott, about the possibility of building a hotel.
American Classic Arcade Museum
The third floor of Funspot houses a large number classic arcade and pinball machines. The collection is labeled the American Classic Arcade Museum, but other than most of the machines being in one large room, and spilling into an adjacent area, it is not segregated from the rest of the Funspot complex. Before the museum was founded, Funspot had classic games spread throughout the building.
Gary Vincent, an employee of Funspot and now curator of the Classic Arcade Museum, came up with the idea of collecting the games in one spot to give visitors to the arcade a different way of understanding the games. Opened in the late 1990s, the American Classic Arcade Museum collects games built no later than 1987. When asked why 1987 was picked as the cut off date, Vincent replied, "We set the cut off date as 1987 because that is pretty much about the time when we noticed that the videogame industry was starting to change. Instead of having fantasy-based games, puzzle-based, space shoot 'em up games or whatever, it seemed to switch over to more of what I call 'kick-punch-shoot' games."
There are 180 games on the floor at any one time, with another 100 housed in a warehouse. Billy Baker of The Boston Globe called the museum "the Louvre of the '8-bit' world," and the Guinness Book of World Records names the American Classic Arcade Museum at Funspot as the World's Largest Arcade by number of games.
Since 1998, the American Classic Arcade Museum has hosted the Annual Classic Videogame and Pinball Tournament, where people come from all over the world to try to beat records on the arcade games housed in the museum. Referees from the Guinness Book of World Records are on hand to verify the record attempts. At the 10th tournament alone, well over 20 records were set. Records were set by well-known gamers such as Billy Mitchell, Steve Wiebe, and Brian Wagner.
During the end of the 1980s, with the decline in interest in arcade games, Funspot started deaccessioning its games. Once the museum was founded, Funspot began looking to regain those games they lost. One such lost game was the first video game to appear in Funspot, Tank II. It was installed around 1977 and sold off in the late 1980s. Another copy was acquired by the museum, but it is not the original game that used to be housed at Funspot. To reaccession games, the museum purchases some on eBay and has many donated. Often, nonworking or partial games are donated, and restoration work, sometimes years' worth, must be done to get them in working order.
In 2007, portions of the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters were filmed in the classic game portion of Funspot.
The name "Funspot" came from a magazine article Bob Lawton read. He stated, "I got the name from a magazine... When we asked them if we could use the name for our business, they said go right ahead." In 1965, the creator of the Archie comic series, Bob Montana, drew the jester that appears on every Funspot token. Montana, who resided in Meredith, New Hampshire, created the jester in the likeness of his character Jughead. Funspot's mascot is "Topsnuf" the dragon. The name "Topsnuf" is the word "Funspot" backwards.
Funspot has three other ventures that are not associated with its "Fun Center". Two of the ventures are incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, as well as the American Classic Arcade Museum, and a large percentage of Funspot's charity bingo games have one of the three nonprofits as its beneficiary.
The Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society and Lake Winnipesaukee Museum are an organization and museum building located on the grounds of Funspot. Founded by Funspot President Bob Lawton and his son Tim Lawton in 1985, the museum houses information and exhibits on the history of Lake Winnipesaukee and the towns surrounding it. Many of the artifacts were found by Bob and Tim from scuba diving expeditions the two regularly made into the lake. The museum building was opened in 2004, and an expansion is already in the works. An approximately 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) addition that resembles a timber-framed barn has been designed and will replace an adjacent garage.
The Weirs Times is the second venture outside the realm of entertainment that Bob Lawton embarked upon. The original "Weirs Times and Tourist's Gazette" was published from 1883 until 1902. Bob Lawton started publishing a new weekly paper with the same masthead and map of Lake Winnipesaukee as the original paper in June 1992. Originally focused on the towns around Lake Winnipesaukee, the weekly publication has expanded to a weekly circulation of 30,000. The Weirs Times is known for devoting a large percent of its copy to Republican and Tea Party columnists and letters to the editor. Funspot began hosting the Miss Winnipesaukee Scholarship Program in 1969.
- Coopee, Todd. "Funspot – Laconia, New Hampshire". ToyTales.ca.
- "Inside the World's Largest Arcade". Edge Magazine. 2008-08-29. Archived from the original on 2014-12-25. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
- Bangeman, Eric. "A visit to Galloping Ghost, the largest video game arcade in the USA". Ars Technica.
- Baker, Billy. Bizarro World. The Boston Globe. August 19, 2007. Accessed July 11, 2010.
- Haas, Harrison. Fun Spot Healthy at 58[dead link]. The Citizen of Laconia. June 27, 2010. Accessed July 11, 2010.
- Basch, Marty. Pinball wizards, Frogger fanatics flock here. The Boston Globe. May 10, 2009. Accessed July 11, 2010
- McGray, John. Funspot, 50 Years of Fun. Pages 12 - 18. July 2001
- McGray, John. Funspot, 50 Years of Fun. Pages 21 - 25. July 2001
- Guinness World Records Takes Over Funspot. Guinness World Records. June 3, 2008. Accessed July 11, 2010
- Kahney, Leander. Gobbling Up a Pac-Man Record. Wired News. July 8, 1999. Accessed September 29, 2007
- McGray, John. "Funspot, 50 Years of Fun", p. 10. July 2001
- Funspot Charity Bingo. Funspot. Accessed July 12, 2010
- LWHS Archives. Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society. Accessed July 12, 2010
- Weirs Times: About. The Weirs Times. Accessed July 12, 2010
- History:1968. Miss Winnipesaukee Scholarship Program. Accessed July 12, 2010
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