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It's The Spot For Fun!

Promotion is the name of the game in the amusement industry and nobody does it better than the Funspot family fun center in Weirs Beach, N.H. Founded in 1952 and currently located on 21 acres of property, Funspot is closing in on half a century in business and still growing. The facility recently added an indoor golf center with six deluxe golf simulators and a pro shop offering custom clubs and top of the line merchandise. Plans are on the drawing board for a hotel and convention center, too.

Funspot founder Bob Lawton says diversification is the secret to Funspot's longevity. Constantly adding new and different attractions keeps the location fresh and the customers coming back for more old-fashioned fun. Staging regular promotional events - everything from local beauty pageants and motorcycle week to a now regular classic games tournament and bowling leagues - doesn't hurt either. "Promotion works; it draws the crowds," says Lawton. "Special events are fun for both your customers and your staff."

Shortly after graduating from college with a chemistry degree, Lawton founded his first amusement location in Weirs Beach in 1952 with his brother John. He was living in New York at the time, and his roommate returned from vacation raving about a driving range and miniature golf facility he visited. The first location included an indoor miniature golf facility, along with a game room run by a local operator. As business grew, so did Lawton's operation, and in 1964 they purchased the plot of land north of town where Funspot is now located, mainly for additional parking space.

In the beginning, Funspot offered a small arcade, miniature golf, a driving range and a billiard room. Today, the 60,000-sq. ft. Funspot operates more than 500 games (including the largest known collection of classic games, according to industry scorekeeper Walter Day of Twin Galaxies) and fully stocked redemption center, a full-service restaurant called the Braggin' Dragon, a bowling center with 10 regular and 10 candlepin lanes, the D.A. Long Tavern for spirits and snacks, an 18-hole mini golf course, a full outdoor driving range, the new indoor golf center, a kiddie fun area with rides and kiddie bumper cars, a birthday party area and a bingo hall under separate 6,000-sq.-ft. roof. The bingo hall is state-sponsored and run by a charity organization. Funspot rents the space and benefits from the traffic through its other attractions.

Funspot plays host to as many as 600,000 guests each year. In the summer vacation months, the facility draws guests from the New York and New England areas, who come to Weirs Beach, a lakeside resort community. During the winter months, guests come from a tighter geographic circle. However, atten-d a n c e is spurred year-r o u n d through a crowded calendar of spe-cial events. During the winter, guests come out for annual Halloween and Christmas parties, and Funspot's Memorial Day Fireworks celebration kicking off the summer season has been known to draw more than 5,000 people. Funspot played host in recent weeks to Motorcycle Week, a special Ford Mustang show and the Miss Winnipesaukee 2000 Contest, an annual event. Lawton also owns the local Weirs Times, New Hampshire's largest weekly paper, which helps promote these special events to area customers along with the arcade's impressive website (www. Many of the events are held free to the public, including an annual Haunted House for kids and Christmas dinner for anyone interested in attending. "You have to give back to your community," argues Lawton, who has served asa New Hampshire State Rep. since 1969. "People need to feel good about your location."


Two years ago Twin Galaxies' Walter Day approached Funpot OM Gary Vincent, who has been with the center for almost 20 years, about hosting a Classic Video Game contest on its stock of vintage games from the so-called Golden Era of videos. The first event, held during the summer of 1999, was a huge success drawing players from round the country. "We even had one guy who came from Israel," explained Vincent. "He learned about the event on he Internet, and rearranged a trip he was taking to Mexico to attend. He rode the bus all the way from JFK Airport in New York and spent three days with us."

The first classic game tournament also prompted a much-ballyhooed event later in the year - veteran video tournament player Billy Mitchell's perfect Pac-Man game. Mitchell attempted the perfect game during the first classic tournament, and retumed shortly thereafter to complete the perfect game at Funspot while being videotaped by arcade staffers. The fanf'are that followed put the spotlight on Mitchell and Funspot in media outlets around the world. This year's classic game tournament, also held in conjunction with Twin Galaxies, drew even bigger crowds including two competitors from Finland.

Vincent says the success of the classic toumaments and a desire to preserve the industry's past has fueled an even larger promotional project: the founding of a coin-op machine museum on the facility's third floor. Vincent and Lawton are currently redesigning the classic game area and seeking out old, vintage coin machines going all the way back to the 1920s. They recently installed an early pinball game that does not use flippers or pop bumpers. Adorning the walls are poster-sized ads from old issues of RePlay and other trade magazines, celebrating the equipment of the past. (Lawton says he recently sold a Grandmother Fortune Teller in mint condition for $50,000 to a collector; the piece which he picked up at liquidation sale in 1965 had become too valuable to leave on the store floor.)

This commitment to celebrating coin-op's past is another example of giving back to the community, both the local community and the games industry. "You always have fads in the leisure time spending industry but they wither or die," concludes Lawton. "But the games, videos as well as pinballs and prize games, have always been the biggest part of our income and the most important factor in our operation."Funspot is located at U.S. Route 3, Weirs Beach, NH; their home on the web is

By Steve White - Reprinted by permission from RePlay Magazine's November 2000 issue.