More than 1500 machines later, John Yates has created his own gaming empire in McLean.
“It just—it became an obsession basically,” he said.
Yates owns Arcadia, the nearby Pinball Paradise, as well as three arcade-themed AirBNB’s.
He said, “I’m trying to turn McLean into this arcade or amusement attraction.”
The Bloomington-Normal native stumbled on his playful passion back when he was a child.
“I think what happened was I hung out near arcade games growing up and because I didn’t have any money, I would just spend hours watching other people play games and that was just kind of a social gathering for my generation,” said Yates.
He says as soon as he got to college in the early 90’s, he started buying arcade games.
“I was actually paying my roommates an additional $20 or $30 a month so I could cram three games in each of their bedrooms because I ran out of room in the living room, the dining room and my room,” Yates said.
Fast forward to now, the investments have paid off. Yates owns about 200 operable games across his businesses and has hundreds more sitting in storage.
Even with his buildings packed to the brim with machines, Yates says he still has a lot more in store for customers.