Diary Of An Arcade Employee – My Time At The Arkadia Retrocade Pt. 4

Diary Of An Arcade Employee – My Time At The Arkadia Retrocade Pt. 4

In the three previous installments of the Diary of an Arcade Employee I have revealed the the beginnings of the Arkadia Retrocade, from the announcement by Shea Mathis of his intention to bring an arcade back to Northwest Arkansas for the first time in 15 years to the obstacles of getting things up to Code so the doors could be opened to the public. With the last installment I left off with the hard work that Shea as well as his friends and family were putting into the arcade with the building of the party room and cocktail game deck.

The first three chapters may be found by following the links below:
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 1 – The Announcement
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 2 – The Work Begins
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 3 – The Construction Continues

So we had most of the dry wall up and secured by this time in the birth of the Arkadia Retrocade which meant it was once again time for us to direct our attention back to the cocktail game deck. Due to the surprise cost of obtaining a three compartment sink the original idea for the deck had to be scaled back. As originally planned it would function as a 3 foot island in the middle of the arcade where the Players could take a breather and look out over the games and other players, enjoying a soda or snack while playing our cocktail cabinets. Of course the budget cut changed that but in this particular case it turned out to be for the better in the long run, while we naturally still needed to build a wheelchair accessible ramp we didn’t require railings on the edge of the deck.

Arkadia Retrocade - Deck Building 2

In this second photo you might notice the amount of Dr. Pepper and Mt. Dew resting on the snack bar along with all of the bags of nails and other building materials. Somehow Shea stayed rail thin while I ended up gaining ten extra pounds during the construction phase!
Arkadia Retrocade - Deck Building 4

Arkadia Retrocade - Deck Building 5

At about this time we had a very lucky break. Shea knew that he was going to have to learn to repair the machines as they went down, which when dealing with sometimes 30 year old games is something you have to prepared to accept, but he still wanted to find someone local we could count on to help keep the games up and running. I mentioned before that we did everything we could to make sure that people didn’t know what Shea was working on by putting up butcher’s paper in the windows, word though still got out on the streets and that word reached the ears of Jeremy Bright…who just so happened to be a high-school friend of Shea and myself.

Besides being super excited about the idea of an arcade opening up again…he happened to be a student of electrical engineering. A quick talk with Shea one afternoon while we were working on the deck and the Arkadia Retrocade had its ‘mechanic’!

Arkadia Retrocade - Jer Bright

Within two days Shea and I had completed the construction of the deck, though we still had to paint it of course. Before the sun went down on the second day, Shea had begun to move the arcade games to roughly where he wanted them to be when it was time to open the doors to the Players. That evening we celebrated of sorts as Shea revealed another decoration design, this time to the deck. Blue ‘Tron’ lights that would run the entire length of the deck so that when Shea lowered the lights in the arcade the Players would still be able to see and not trip on it.

Arkadia Retrocade - Lights

I’ve documented nearly 100% of the entire process of the building of the Arkadia Retrocade. I’ve over 3000 photos of the construction ranging from the few you’ve seen in the diaries to under the stairs of the office to the inside of every arcade machine on the floor. The amount of work that Shea put into the arcade not to mention his blood and sweat and occasional tears demanded to be preserved (I admit I had always planned to make these arcade diaries as well). When we dimmed the lights that night I took some of my favorite photos so far…the machines glowing in the dark just itching to be played by a new generation!

Arkadia Retrocade - Line Up 4

Arkadia Retrocade - Line up 2

Arkadia Retrocade - Line up 1

It was a magical moment to be sure and still continues to be every night that I get to visit the arcade. When the business day is done and the music is turned off…you hear only the siren’s call of electronic nirvana and the glowing machines have a way of making the stressful day just slip away.

While there was one more monkey wrench thrown into the bathroom construction…when the laborers up and vanished for two weeks…the arcade was really taking shape. We had missed our October 31st opening date and now it was getting down to brass tacks, Shea was being forced into a point of no return. If we couldn’t get the doors opened in the first few weeks of November it would be if you will pardon the pun, Game Over.

There was still much to work on and very little time to take care of sanding down the dry walls, the painting, and a whole ton of clean up.

But that will be discussed in the fifth chapter of the diary.


Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. “the siren’s call of electronic nirvana”…love it.

  2. I’ve met Jeremy too – and his tool bag, one day coming in the door. I have to stop asking him “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” type questions anytime I run into him. I just want to play the huge old Sprint machine, is that so wrong?

    Thanks as always to you, Shea, Jeremy and EVERYONE involved in putting my “happiest place on Earth” on the map. I gotta get up there soon and give Congo Bongo the what-for.

  3. Thanks once again for the glimpse into how an arcade is born Vic!

  4. I just left Northwest Arkansas to move to Kentucky, but I already miss seeing Shea for my bi-weekly trip to Arkadia.
    In June, I used the birthday money my father sent me to take all my kids and a family friend to Arkadia for a wonderful evening of electronic fun.
    When Shea found out, he gave me free admission and it really made me smile.
    I wish him the best of luck with Arkadia and hope he continues to grow…!

  5. Gary, I hope you’ll get to head back and visit us soon!
    Thanks to everyone for the kind comments as always, I look forward to bringing you more behind the scenes thrills next week. :)

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