The story of coin soccer in America is actually many stories. The achievements of the individual factories and Importers is chronicled here, company by company, but first, lets take a look at the hardware currently on the market.
EBSCO Amusements, a division of EBSCO Industries Inc.. entered the table soccer field in 1965. Initially, EBSCO imported two German made tables. the Deutcher Meister and the Leonhart. However, a few years later, the firm began manufacturing the Vulcan Fussball Table at its Red Bank. New Jersey plant
A work force numbering more than forty people is currently involved in the manufacture of the five Vulcan table models. in EBSCO's 30.000 square foot plant. The facility has a production capability of three hundred Vulcan machines a month.
''Over the past few years. many new features have been added to the Vulcan tables, as part of EBSCO's efforts to manufacture the strongest, .most durable. and most playable fussball table on the market,'' stated sales manager Jack DeMarco. EBSCO currently is marketing Vulcan two player and four player machines. both coin operated and free play. The company also manufactures a home model table which contains the same fast action excitement of the popular four player Vulcan coin model, the 1 CP machine EBSCO is represented throughout the United States by various distributors and its own sales force.
As far as promotion is concerned. EBSCO Amusements is presently involved in soccer tournaments. the first of which was held recently in central New Jersey Plans are being formulated for additional tournaments during the upcoming spring and summer months. A tournament information package is available upon request by writing to EBSCO Amusements in Red Bank.
DeMarco predicts a great future for the game of table soccer. "Due to the various promotional efforts on the part of many of the manufacturers, within the next few years the game will continue to grow in popularity in many parts of the country EBSCO Amusements will continue to play an important role in making it the number one table sport in the country.'' DeMarco stated.
Cabinet-game veterans at the Irving Kaye Sales Corp entered the soccer table arena in 1969 with their Super Soccer table The firm. which has been a prominent manufacturer of pool tables since the 50s. lent its carpentry/amusement skills to the new game concept and came out with a piece that offered a number of exclusives at that time, including a slide-out playfield for maintenance ease and a one-piece cabinet
The Super Soccer also featured such things as metal ends bolted to the cabinet corners to insure sturdiness under vigorous play. an all-steel cash-box and secured ball mechanism. The cash-box could be reached by the routeman without opening the machine. Kaye's tables were a product of a company which was a long time in the business of making equipment for the operating industry and they were well received .
The Hurricane ''American-styled'' table followed the Super Soccer table shortly thereafter. This line was essentially designed in response to actual player suggestions on improvements on machines in operation in American locations at that time. according to Kaye Company's Howard Kaye. The result was the classic product now well known to the industry. Weighing in at 375 Ibs. the Hurricane table features textured glass playfield for better ball control. special compound balls, counterbalanced ''men'' on the chrome plated rods and an improved playfield shape to offer players far more accuracy when banking a shot, according to Kaye . . a result of their expertise in pool table manufacture.
The Kaye company is currently promoting a series of tournaments, most often with prize purses of $500 to $1,000. Three such events have already been staged (e.g. Syracuse, N.Y.) with six more planned for coming months, and at least one, maybe two. ''larger'' events now on the planning boards. Kaye's philosophy is to hold several mini tournaments in the same city at regular intervals. Jim Tyrell heads up the firm's tournament activities and is assisted by Becky and Tina Eberts.
Kaye's tables. while of the "American style.'' are exported today all over the world. The firm also boasts the world's largest inventories of soccer parts A parts catalog is readily available upon request,
''Spinetta-Marengo.'' A rich Italian dessert? A torrid Latin dance? Not quite. It's a small town between Milan and Genoa; more importantly, the home of Renato Garlando and the Garlando, Chevrolet of soccer tables.
Garlando has been in the table soccer business for twenty-five years and is the paterfamilias to his forty-two factory workers An apocryphal story circulates that his father made coffins and that Garlando transformed them into his first soccer cabinets. Influential in the European game industry. Garlando did not enter the American market until 1969. That year he met Joe Robbins. vice president of Empire Distributing, Chicago. at the Milan Fair and Empire subsequently became his exclusive North American distributor.
The marriage had a rocky start. At first and for approximately a year, the Garlando table was rejected. Operators put them on locations, but returned them disgruntled. Nobody understood the game so nobody played it. Even a sixty-day free trial in the Chicago area proved futile. You could have made them into planters. Only in Wisconsin did Garlando gain a quick foothold while languishing everywhere else.
Then Robbins aggressively and patiently promoted it. Time and education were the crucial elements. "It requires time for a strange game to be accepted. and both operator and patron had to learn how to play the game.'' according to Empire salesman Alan Zeidman. Once they caught on. it sold ''like Big Mac hamburgers, outdistancing its chief rivals Vulcan and Rene Pierre. From Florida to Montana, from California to Wisconsin. wherever the four winds blew. people were playing Garlando. The heydey lasted five years,'' Zeidman stated.
By late 1 9 7 3. there was a veritable plethora of soccer table manufacturers. The MOA exhibition devoted an entire room to them. Garlando's most exuberant competition came from the heavy duty Texas style table, and it forced him to revise his own model. ''In early 1975, Garlando's Deluxe and Giant replaced the standard table, and he still remains at the top of the proverbial heap, however precarious that may be.'' Zeidman declared.
''Why is Garlando Foosball so popular? What makes a Garlando table different from other tables? Perhaps Renato Garlando's own manufacturing philosophy provides the answer. He strives for durability and player appeal at a reasonable cost. He is an innovator. He developed the first solid plastic man and then the die mold. and used Formica and metal where competitors used composition board. He patented the spring loaded oilier bushings for easier rod handling." Zeidman said.
"Garlando responds to change. Each year he visits the MOA to survey his rivals and tries to incorporate in his game whatever operators and players want. In the past five years, he has constructed at least a dozen experimental models until he achieved the desired product. His painstaking efforts were widely accepted." he added.
The Garlando is a fast moving rather than control game. It has the smooth play field glass. hard plastic ball. and the spring loaded rods, while the control game uses serrated glass. a lighter rubberized ball, and sponge rubber rod cushions.
What is the future of Garlando tables7 Renato Garlando is again at work on a new model. but the innovations are hush-hush. Perhaps a breakthrough. "The history of the Garlando is not yet finished," Zeidman observed.
Mirco Games first entered the soccer business in 1969 under the name of Arizona Automation. With a staff of one, Dick Raymond dedicated all of his efforts to a company which is now one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of soccer tables in the United States. Here's how the story goes:
In 1967 Dick Raymond and John Walsh, while working for General Electric in Germany, became interested in one of the most popular arcade games of Europe. Soccer tables were found in many of the bars and taverns of France. Germany, and Italy and were avidly played by Europeans as well as by American servicemen and businessmen. Like many Americans: Raymond and Walsh saw the potential for such a game back home. They made plans to export tables to the United States and the plan materialized when Raymond returned to Phoenix and formed Arizona Automation.
With an office space of 600 square feet. Raymond served as the only employee. doing his own typing. packaging. shipping, and ordering. Both coin and non-coin operated tables were shipped from Germany by Walsh, with Raymond acting as a distributor in Phoenix, operating and selling the games in very small quantities to individuals and businesses. The game was copyrighted under the name of Champion Soccer. In 1969. Raymond took on full ownership of the company and continued to import tables until the devaluation of the German Mark. At that time it became more economical to manufacture tables domestically so in 1971 Arizona Automation began building the Regular Coin Model table. a game which. according to Raymond. was an instant success. This was followed up by the development of the Regular Club Model, the TModel, and the Glass Club Model. In four years Raymond built sales from $15.000 to $ 1,000,000. ''Many of the current manufacturers also got their start by operating Champion Soccer tables.'' Raymond states.
The 1970 MOA Convention was the beginning of a new era for Arizona Automation. "Exhibiting at the MOA was one of the best things to ever happen to us." states Raymond. "Hy Sandler of Sandler Vending was our first distributor. He treated us all as though we represented a large company rather than the beginners we were. That convention did quite a bit to place us in the forefront of the soccer industry. It was our big start.''
An equally important development in the company's history occurred in 1971. Again John Walsh and Richard Raymond joined forces, this time in a merger which was to greatly affect both men and their careers. John Walsh was at that time president of Mirco, Incorporated. a computer tester firm. And though it may seem that the two fields are unrelated, Mirco's expertise in the electronics field made an ideal marriage with Arizona Automation's knowledge of the games industry and its distributor network. As Mirco Games. Raymond's company went on to produce four video electronic games as well as the first, computerized pinball game. He also established factories in Australia and Germany.
But this expansion did not exclude the soccer market. The first coin games produced after the merger were the Grand Champion and the Little Champion two player table. In 1975. the company introduced three more club model tables which are handled through the Montgomery Ward stores as well as retail outlets throughout the U.S. "The Grand Champion Club, the Maverick, and the new Junior Champion have given Mirco the distinction of offering the most extensive line of tables in the industry." Raymond declared.
Realizing that sales are not contingent solely on the quality of the products, Mirco is now planning a series of promotional events, mainly in the form of statewide tournaments in key metropolitan cities. In 1973 and 1974 they sponsored the Louisiana State Soccer Tournaments, both of which were $2000 events. In 1975, Mirco tournaments were held in Detroit, Minneapolis. Omaha, and Kansas City. with total prize money exceeding $16.000. The 1976 schedule includes St. Louis, Rochester. and Detroit, for which definite plans have been made. Mirco will continue to work with distributors throughout the country to maintain player enthusiasm.
Mirco's games division employs approximately seventy people. including a large engineering staff, marketing department. and warehouse and clerical personnel. The factory and corporate offices are located in an indoor-outdoor garden like series of buildings in Phoenix, Arizona. The games section is only one of five divisions of Mirco, Incorporated, known world wide for its expertise in the electronics field.
Mirco has come a long way since its small beginnings in 1969. It has earned a reputation for quality and reliability for the diversified products it manufactures. Mirco strongly believes that soccer is here to stay and salutes the other manufacturers who have helped the coin operated industry through continued promotion and advertising of the sport of table soccer.
The Rene Pierre Manufacturing Co. of Chalon-sur-Saone in France began to manufacture its soccer table in 1952. Since then. Rene Pierre has expanded to manufacture other coin operated games. primarily billiard tables. In addition to the U.S. his products are currently marketed in England. Africa, the Middle East. and most of western Europe.
The Rene Pierre soccer table has undergone many changes and improvements since 1952. For example. the first rods were on ball bearings and protruded through the side of the table. The first men used were made of wood, later changed to plastic, and finally evolved to the durable metal men currently used.
Peabody's Inc.. of Virginia Beach. Virginia, is a diversified corporation with major interest and emphasis on the marketing of youth orientated products. This marketing direction has led Peabody's. since its conception 10 years ago. into a very large T-shirt silk screening venture. Peabody's printed T-shirts are marketed through wholesale. and a chain of retail outlets. In addition to the T-shirts. Peabody's also owns and operates several resort type Discotheques.
With this youth orientated marketing philosophy in mind. Nabil Kassir and Ed Ruffin, principles of Peabody's Inc., observed the popularity of table soccer in Europe with great interest. In 1970 they brought a Rene Pierre soccer table from France and placed it in one of their discotheques. The game at first was viewed with
Leisure Sports Systems. Inc. was founded in 1972 by Martin A. Wasserman and two associates, operating a small woodworking plant in North Dallas, producing an innovative new 'Texas' style soccer table; a table highlighted by massive, heavyweight construction. textured soccer balls and playing fields for more exacting ball control, wider goals for better scoring opportunities, counter balanced playing figures for improved shot making, octagonal rod handles for better grip and 'feel.' plus a host of other improvements that, according to Wasserman, "made the 'Texas' style table the most advanced soccer table since the inception of the sport in Europe. just prior to the turn of the century.''
According to Wasserman, "the ad vent of the 'Texas' style table generated a totally new group of table soccer enthusiasts, who brought with them the interest and skill that has resulted in a veritable boom in the table soccer industry, which today is gearing to meet a market demand that is expected to surpass $15.000.000 by 1977.''
Leisure Sports Systems. Inc. first production table was dubbed the ''American Table,'' a name that is still synonymous with the company's products today. Wasserman fondly recalls first taking the American Table prototype around to several Dallas operators, proudly showing off the new table in the back of a van. From such early efforts. the company generated its first sales and, after proving itself in the field. the American Table ''quickly gained a reputation for durability. low maintenance and improved playing characteristics," Wasserman said.
By the end of 1974, Leisure Sports Systems, Inc. was occupying two plant facilities in Garland, Texas and already stretching production capabilities to the maximum. This was induced partly by the acquisition of Better Games. Inc. and Electro-Sports. Inc.. two smaller manufacturers of quality game tables.
In '1975. Wasserman announced the company's affiliation with Anheuser-Busch, Inc.. with plans for a new tournament table ... the Budweiser-American '76! Introduced early in 1975, the table quickly became the top selling table in the American line and featured several new innovations of particular benefit to operators. Working with Anheuser-Busch, Inc. officials. Wasserman is currently developing a total marketing and promotional program around the table that "will bring Budweiser table soccer to the forefront of table soccer sports and into the national sports spotlight," he said. The inaugural Budweiser International Fussball Tournament, set for St. Louis, Mo.. June 1012, ''will be the premier event and the first of many Budweiser fussball tournament promotions and will focus national attention on this popular skill sport,'' he said. ''With the backing of the Anheuser-Busch. Inc. organization, operators will be able to capitalize on national exposure of the table in promoting their own local and regional tournaments, thereby increasing interest, play and revenue,'' Wasserman noted .
Overall. the coin operated market for table games is steadily increasing, according to Wasserman. and has been particularly encouraging over the past year. ''Leisure Sports Systems. Inc. is investing substantially in research and development to produce new and unique game table innovations to meet the anticipated future demand.''
Dan and Nancy Moore came to Tulsa last June from Dallas to form Pleasure Games Manufacturing Co.. Inc. Moore is vice president and operations officer, his wife, and Jack Bates handle sales.
Their first six months in business brought gross revenues of approximately $200.000. and they forecast from advanced sale contracts a $1 5 gross this year manufacturing soccer tables.
Moore was one of the owners of Dallas Foosball Co. for two years before moving to Tulsa. Since starting the company, Moore and his sales people have sold models of its table, ''The Burner,'' is most states.
''At the present time," Moore said, "the popularity of the game extends mainly through the midsection of the country from the Canadian border to the Gulf Coast. However. the sport is spreading both east and west to both coats.''
He said Pleasure Games has grown from four to 24 employees and now completes an average of 50 tables per week, working out of a 9.000 square foot production and office facility.
''Response to our tables has been tremendous.'' Moore said. ''We feel it has definite structural improvements over others on the market because we took a long look at all the others before we began designing and building out own.''
Pleasure Games' newest model is electronic. Rather than a conventional coin slot. this model features a coin drop chute and one ball release system. The one ball dropped is the only one used in the game. Each score is electronically recorded and shown on the table surface.
skepticism but, possibly due to the large influx of servicemen returning from Europe in the Virginia Beach area. quickly grew in popularity.
Soon people were coming to this particular discotheque just to play on the Rene Pierre table. Soon other owners of entertainment businesses were inquiring how and where to get the Rene Pierre table. Peabody's Inc., realizing the potential of the situation, negotiated and secured the exclusive rights for the Rene Pierre soccer table in the U.S.
As table soccer grew in popularity, Peabody's again took an innovative step in the form of the "Table Soccer Center" concept. The idea was to open amusement centers featuring the Rene Pierre table. This concept was at first viewed with scorn by the adult public. They saw the stereotype "pool hall" image of smoke filled rooms and undesirable elements. This image was overcome through good management and supervision, and by making the centers attractive. Through these centers and by pioneering in tournaments, Peabody's has done a great deal to get the "soccer table" ball rolling and launched the Rene Pierre soccer table into national prominence.
The history of the Deutscher Meister soccer table in the American coin business is actually the story of Bud Wachter, founder of Diverse Products, Inc. of Red Bank, N.J. and an entrepreneur whose involvement with table soccer games goes back many years. Wachter recalls that story:
"I retired from the U.S. Army in 1959. From the end of World War II (1945) until my retirement, I was stationed in Fuerth, Germany for a total of twelve years. This happens to be the town where the Deutscher Meister table soccer was being manufactured by a firm called AUTOMATENBAU FOERSTER. We had two soccer tables in our recreation hall and since the game at that time was not as substantial as it is now, we were constantly needing repair parts. Being the company first sergeant and the only man in the company who could speak enough German to get by, I always went for the needed parts. l became very friendly with the owner of the factory and spent a lot of time with him advising how he could improve the sturdiness of the game etc. (No one is as destructive as a bunch of G.I.'s on game equipment.}
"When I retired in 1959, I remained in Germany and went to work for a U.S. corporation there which was selling to the Armed Forces as their European sales manager. One of the things I accomplished was to acquire the exclusive rights for sales to the U.S. Military Forces for the Deutscher Meister table soccer game. l had salesmen in Germany, France, Italy, England, Spain and North Africa. In the ten years I was there, we sold several thousand Deutscher Meister table soccer games. The company thought this was so great we imported some to the U.S. They were strictly military sales oriented but they just didn't have the coverage like we had in Europe. They expected sales to equal the European sales and ordered too many and were stuck with a large stock.
''About this time they transferred me back to the regional office here in Red Bank and promoted me to eastern region sales manager, which included Europe. quite a few eastern states. plus Puerto Rico and Panama.
"I had been urging them to contact the coin trade on the games but they never did. When I arrived back here, this was the first thing I did and presto the big stock was gone. We couldn't get enough games to fill our orders. Business was great but they didn't give me the comparable rewards so I resigned and started my own company in July 1971. and incorporated in 1972.
"When I attended my first MOA show in 1972,1 believe I was the only one displaying a table soccer game. MOA 1975. if my count was correct, there were eighteen companies showing.
''Needless to say, Diverse was also able to get an exclusive on the Deutscher Meister games.
''At present we have not conducted tournaments, although we have helped distributors and operators to do so. Presently we are in the process of opening a twenty game Fussball Hall in New Jersey and also one in California. If these are successful, we intend to open many more around the country where we will run tournaments and organize table soccer leagues.''
Aptly named, this relative latecomer among the major manufacturers and promoters of soccer tables has been a veritable "dynamo'' in making its mark on the industry. Firm president John Lewis. a former soccer table operator. decided to get into manufacturing in the early 70's. as he says it, ''because it became clear that the tables being used then left much to be desired. They simply wouldn't stand up under heavy play. They also lacked a wide capability for diverse shots, so the challenge to the players was limited."
Dynamo was born, as Lewis will say, "to build the better mousetrap'' or in this case, the Dynamo soccer line. ''Our prototype immediately improved the game with many innovative features.'' said Lewis. "As other operators became aware of the new design. demand began to grow. So did Dynamo. "
Their success, according to Lewis, led to the construction of ''the most modern manufacturing facility of its kind, here in Grand Prairie, Texas. It's a plant that provides a great environment for even further improvements and refinements.'' The plant offers 54.000 sq. ft. of production and office space.
Lewis says the table was the result of player suggestions, in combination with his and his colleagues' knowledge of the game from the operating standpoint. Features which resulted included their 350pound cabinet. counterbalanced men to improve game speed. a textured playing surface and strengthening of the ball itself for greater stress tolerance. Plus, the goal was widened for faster play and greater operating revenues, and the addition of drink racks and ashtrays kept the "players on the game and the burns and spills off.''
Lewis contends that Dynamo Is the "largest domestic mg, marketing, and manufacturing personnel.
''Dynamo's quality control is second to none.'' Lewis boasts. ''It assures consistent low maintenance products. And our sophisticated manufacturing techniques cut costs without compromising quality. so our customers are further assured of high profit marketing margins. ''
Dynamo is equally well known in the promotion of the sport itself. "Competitors may see promotion as advertising between themselves and the wholesale market operation. Dynamo sees promotion as continual involvement between the public and our products. The customers are the direct beneficiaries of this unique concept. Dynamo sponsored 'Beat the Champs' tours send topnotch players around the country promoting interest in the game and obviously in our table. PR notices are originated by the company and sent to newspapers and other media. Radio commercials and newspaper ads cosponsored by the distributors entice the public's curiosity and alert the soccer faithfuls that a tournament is underway. This one program alone is proving to be a significant income producer. We originate artwork and PR, and pay for expenses. Premiums and other promotional materials are making their way into cities across the land. We are truly making the public aware of soccer and of Dynamo's role in it."
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