Vermont’s Pinball Co-Op Completes Expansion (Plus a Chat with Owner Mike Havens)

Vermont’s Pinball Co-Op Completes Expansion (Plus a Chat with Owner Mike Havens)
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Vermont’s Pinball Co-Op Completes Expansion (Plus a Chat with Owner Mike Havens)
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Vermont’s Pinball Co-Op Completes Expansion (Plus a Chat with Owner Mike Havens)
Published on
July 17, 2023
Updated on
July 17, 2023
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Congratulations to Vermont’s Pinball Co-Op, which completed a long-planned location expansion recently. The additional space allows the Co-Op to house 10 additional games, for up to 36 at a time, as well as provide some much needed space for the growing base of pinball players in Vermont

This is the second expansion in recent years for The Pinball Co-Op, which was founded in 2015 by Steve Daniels, Gary Watson, and Todd Baumeister in South Burlington, Vermont. In 2021, local player Mike Havens took over operations of the Co-Op, and has steered the location through both expansions. 

The Co-Op serves an important role for the pinball community in the area, as it’s one of the only spots in the whole state to house regular pinball league events and high quality tournaments that attract top-level players from across New England and elsewhere. 

If you ever get a chance to play with some of the Vermonters who call the Co-Op home, you’ll quickly notice how tight-knit, friendly, and supportive that group is. It’s not uncommon to see whole packs of Co-Op players at various regional tournaments repping their state and supporting the larger pinball community. Members of the Co-Op even volunteered their time and efforts to help with this expansion. 

We think that speaks volumes about the community that the Co-Op fosters, and wanted to use this opportunity to talk to Mike about The Pinball Co-Op, the expansion, the Vermont pinball community, and their plans for the future. 

Interview with Mike Havens on the Pinball Co-Op Expansion

Kineticist: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your history with the Co-Op?

Mike Havens: I’m a married 43 year old high school math teacher. I purchased my first machine in 2016 (Data East Jurassic Park) and the seller recommended I visit the Co-Op sometime. I played frequently one year, became an official member the following year, joined the repair crew the year after that, then took over running the place in 2021 after Steve decided to step down. He had done so much to keep pinball alive in Vermont, but you could tell he was burning out, and the Covid year was the final straw.

I moved the Co-Op out of the old room and into a new room that’s right next door in the same building, and registered it as a full fledged business.

Kineticist: What is the pinball community like in Vermont, and what role does the Co-Op play in it?

Mike Havens: I would say it’s robust, friendly, and fun. Our last 8-week pingolf league garnered 45 players. A good core of regulars travel several hours to attend tournaments across New England and Canada, and the Co-Op is the hub that keeps it all together. We have pictures and state banners hanging on the wall, people bring in artwork and stickers for decorations, and of course shared pinball machines for all to enjoy.

Kineticist: I want to drill into the competitive aspect a bit. What does it mean for the local players to have a place like the Co-Op that regularly hosts leagues and other IFPA sanctioned tournaments?

Mike Havens: I would say that for most people, it’s a reason to get together and enjoy each other’s company and to leave your troubles and worries behind. The competitive component makes playing games more exciting and meaningful, which increases the reason to come hang out. On a regular day we have 20 people attend and play, but a league night of some kind pushes that number to 35-50.

Kineticist: How did this expansion come about?

Mike Havens: The success of the Co-Op from 2021 onwards is what started the whole process. It took a lot of capital to renovate and move into the current space, but the reception from the local community was so positive that we were able to break even financially during our first year, and establish a profit margin in the next one.

We went from 20 members pre-covid to almost 40 after the move, and almost 50 members today. Attendance during our open days easily doubled and sometimes tripled, so we essentially outgrew the new space in a matter of a couple years.

On top of a monetary surplus and the need for more space, members of the local community were begging to bring their personal games down to the Co-Op for others to play and enjoy. So here we are with extra funds, the need for more space, a surplus of games, and it just so happened that the old room is still available. The recipe for expansion was complete, we just needed to pull the trigger.

Kineticist: What is the new space like? What are you most excited about?

Mike Havens: My desire was to create a comfortable atmosphere with plenty of room and seating. I wanted it to be a place you can relax and enjoy the company around you. I have pinball machines at my house but they rarely get played. In my opinion, pinball is more enjoyable as a social activity, so I wanted to enhance that social piece as much as possible.

My wife Allison picked out a dark green color for the ceiling and walls, and we put four lamps in the room with color changing LEDs that push a green/blue atmosphere. We installed carpet tiles to help absorb the noise, and a few lit up playfields on the walls for decoration. The end result is a new space with 12 games in one of the most relaxing and spacious environments you can possibly imagine.

Kineticist: We’ve seen some awesome photos on your Facebook page of what looks to be other Co-Op members helping out with construction. Who helped out, and what did they do? What does it mean to have volunteer support like that?

Mike Havens: The biggest rock star was Bart Green who is a member of our Tuesday night repair crew and a jack of all trades. He showed up right at 9AM and stayed throughout the entire day. He did cleaning, taping, painting the entire space with his paint sprayer, moving and fixing games, and probably other things I’ve forgotten. I believe he took the day off of work to help us out! Bart was easily the MVP of the day.

At around noon, Chris Mount from Marco’s Pizza showed up with a tray of delicious sandwiches for everybody, and David Schnoll brought over his Hook pinball machine at roughly the same time. The two of them stayed to help us with flooring from beginning to end, and Chris stuck around even longer for the moving of games before he had to go back to work. He gave up all his free time he had that afternoon to help us out!

Mark Johnson showed up next and did more heavy lifting, which was greatly appreciated at that time since my back began to ache. Kris LaCross came in later and helped move and test the games. He found an error with our new game Atlantis (Bally) and stayed over extra until he fixed all the problems. And finally, Connor Shlatz donated what little time he had left at the end of a work day, focusing mostly on touch-up painting and general straightening up that needed to be done.

It felt great to receive any support at all from the community. Allison and I planned the renovations out as if we would be the only ones there from beginning to end, so any support beyond the two of us would ease the workload. The majority of the renovations fell on a Monday, so we knew it would be difficult for others to help us on a work day. Thankfully we had enough helping hands to get us through the hard parts.

Kineticist: So more games, more space, more tournaments? What are your plans for the Co-Op now that you have the extra room? 

Mike Havens: The next step is to test it all out. The largest pinball tournament in the history of Vermont called the Extra Ball Battle (registration currently full) is happening on Saturday, July 22nd, which will test the new space and magnify what changes would need to be made.

I’m also very excited for our upcoming pingolf league that should begin sometime in November. This recurring league was the largest it had ever been prior to the renovations, and the only complaint or criticism that I ever heard is that the space is sometimes difficult to navigate with so many teams occupying the territory at the same time. That will be the true test of the new space, and what I look forward to the most.

Kineticist: Of the 36 games that you have on-site now, what are your personal highlights? 

Mike Havens: One exciting aspect of the new space is that it’s closer to the available on-site wifi that’s in the building. This allows our patrons to experience and enjoy our insider connected games Godzilla Premium and Deadpool Pro, and all future internet-enhanced games as well. I think we’re going to see an influx of such Sterns in the near future.

My personal favorite game of all time is probably our 1978 Gottlieb Joker Poker, donated by one of the Co-Op founders Gary Watson. It has new boards to allow for ball saves and some special effects, bright white LEDs, and it’s the only game left at the co-op that has been around since its inception back in 2015.

Kineticist: Anything else you want folks to know about the Co-Op if they plan to visit?

Mike Havens: We’re open Wednesdays and Fridays from 6-10 PM. We’re BYOB, so grab your favorite stuff and bring it down. You can rent out the entire space for $300 for up to 20 people. I can be reached via email ( or through The Pinball Co-Op Facebook page for any questions you might have.And lastly, I’d like to give some shout outs to the 15 people who donate games, those who donate time to help the place succeed on a weekly basis, and to the awesome repair crew of Jason Ward, Bart Green, Jody Stahlman, Scott Lagasse, and little dabs of Constantinos Stivaros. They seem to do the impossible and keep the games running in such great shape that I often hear people say “these are the best-working collection of games I’ve ever seen”. We are a collective, and the success of the Co-Op would not be possible without everyone who contributes!