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    Location...

    American Pride Amusements is located in sunny beautiful downtown McLean, IL. McLean is about 12 miles south of Bloomington at exit 145 off of Interstate 55. Historic Route 66 runs right through McLean, and McLean is also home to the famous Dixie Truck Stop, one of the oldest Truck Stops in the country.

    APA has taken over the downtown of McLean and has different facilities located in 8 different buildings. Our main headquarters building is our former pinball showroom, Pinball Paradise, located at 108 SW Park street. For detailed maps and directions to our business, I suggest that you navigate to maps.google.com and let them give you directions from your location.

    Our Business...

    Although we have been in nearly every legal aspect of the amusement business, we are currently only operating a couple of facets of the business. We operate a small route of amusement video games and pinballs only. No darts, jukeboxes, pool tables, foosball, bowling, shuffleboard, and especially no "grey-area" gambling machines. Never have, never will. We also sell games on occasion, and sell game boards and other parts on eBay. Although we repair our own games, we currently do not offer repair services to anyone else.

    We are a family business that was founded by our president, John Yates, while attending the University of Illinois in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1989.

    Our History in the Amusement business...

    I have always felt that the amusement business is evidence of the reality of the American dream. What other country on Earth could support an entire multi-billion dollar industry driven simply by the spare change in the citizens' pockets? That spare change supports thousands of small businesses and dozens of enormous ones. Not sure that it will in the future the way things are going, but it has up until now.

    I was also attracted to this business because of its similarity to the classic board game - Monopoly. It was my favorite game as a youth, and I played it with anyone I could coerce. The amusement business is kind of like that game. Getting a new location is like buying a property in Monopoly. Each property you purchase is an asset, and generates income (rent in monopoly, quarters in amusements). Higher rent (or more quarters) come from better properties, but a better property costs a lot more in Monopoly - and the equipment for a better location costs a lot more in amusements. Other players buying properties in Monopoly are like competitors in the amusement business. That's probably where the similarities end.

    To be honest, the amusement business really just gave me an excuse to collect arcade games. I grew up in a family that was on a budget. My parents didn't mind me going to the arcade, but they almost never gave me any money to play the games, as they thought it was a huge waste of money. So I hung out, watching other people play the games I so desperately wanted to. This created an intense unfulfilled desire to play games. As soon as I was old enough, I got a job, and when I had saved up enough money, I bought my own videogame. It was a Sega Star Trek, purchased from the local Aladdin's Castle.

    Then, after going away to college (EE at University of Illinois), I started buying games left and right. I started a vending route in the dorms at U of I in my freshman year, and expanded into amusements in my junior year. By the time I graduated, I had about 300 games and had lost all interest in being an Electrical Engineer (although to be fair, I'm not sure I ever really had any). Which is fortunate, because although I graduated with a decent GPA, I had spent more time outside of class building my various businesses than in class or studying. I didn't have a clue how to engineer anything.

    So rather than getting a real job, I got a bank loan (from a small local bank in Champaign) and expanded my amusement route. Although I had a 22 page business plan and lots of passion, drive, and enthusiasm, I realized pretty quickly that this wasn't going to work. At least not on my terms. Being a conservative Christian non-drinker (basically a nerd), I just wanted to operate arcade-type locations. I didn't want to have games in taverns. I didn't want to operate pool tables, dart machines, jukeboxes, and especially not poker and 8-line gambling machines. But in 1991 (when I started), those were the only profitable locations and machines you could operate. I wanted nothing to do with it.

    The retail market wasn't really there in the early 90s, either. This is before Al Gore invented the Internet (LOL), so no eBay, no easy international marketplace. Games weren't old enough to be collectible. So there wasn't much money to be made retailing them.

    So I decided to get a real job. In 1994, I started work as an entry-level programmer for an international marketing company. I (and my employer) quickly realized that God had created me to be a programmer. I had been programming since about 1981 on the TRS-80 model 1, then on an Apple II plus. I even sold custom software to my high school in the mid 80s. And I had taken more programming courses at U of I. But I didn't realize that I was exceptionally gifted at it. Well, fortunately I was, and quickly moved up at this company. I left that company in 1999 and moved to California to head up web development for a startup in San Jose. Then I was recruited as CTO of a startup back in Illinois.

    All this time, I kept my hands in the amusement business. Primarily, I kept buying and hoarding games. This also meant I had to keep buying buildings, as games take up a lot of space and it makes no sense to rent storage for what was at the time a collection of worthless wooden boxes. I didn't really have a plan for the games other than a vague notion that it would be nice someday to have a museum. I just kept buying them because I was obsessed. My programming work was paying the bills, and supporting my addiction to arcade games.

    I did my own startup in 2006-2008, which was almost acquired by eBay in fall of 2008. When that fell through, I came back to IL (had moved to CA a second time) looking for a new challenge. That challenge was the long dreamed-of arcade museum. I spent about 9 months completely renovating one of my downtown buildings to a high standard. I then filled it with the cream of the crop of arcade games from my 20+ year collection.

    That arcade museum is Arcadia: America's Playable Arcade Museum. Since the museum opened in 2009, I have slowly improved it each year. I've added better signs, decorations, games, etc. And now we are about to start on an expansion that will double the size of the museum and add a badly needed party room.

    Now to bring everything current, I am now working on another startup. This one is going to be a new online marketplace that will compete with Craigslist and even eBay to some extent. I have raised some seed money, filed for the patents, and have begun writing code. For this reason, I have really suspended almost all game sales. I just don't have time to deal with them right now.

    The museum continues as it isn't much of an inconvenience, and it gives me something to distract me when I'm getting burned out coding. But if this new startup is as successful as it should be, who knows what the future will hold for Arcadia?

    That's the history in a nutshell. Come visit some time - we would love to meet you and talk about "the good old days".

    Our Motivation...

    Good question. I don't know why we have gotten so deep in this business. It is kind of a trap, to be honest. Once you get this business in your blood, it becomes part of you and is very difficult to get away from. I have an unnatural fondness and attraction to classic video games and anything to do with them. This attraction eventually infected me to the point that I craved just about any machine with a coin-mech.

    Everyone working with me in this company has committed their life to serving Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We are very committed to learning to know God better, seek His will for our lives, and act on that knowledge. It is our first priority. This can only be accomplished through the intense study of His word, the Bible, and through prayer. If you share this interest, let me recommend Bible Study Fellowship International. It is a very comprehensive, inter-denominational, 100% volunteer run weekly Bible study organization.

    Because this has been my (John's) top priority in life for the last several years, I have become convinced that God is calling me to do something beyond just being "a good person" and going to church on Sunday. I was very troubled after reading the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. You see, until recently, I could definitely be described as the "third seed" from that parable, that is, the one that fell among the thorns..."the man who hears the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful" (verse 13:22). In fact, it still describes me to some degree, but thankfully a lesser and lesser degree each year.

    Now I'm sure many Christians would say, "that's ok, you don't need to let that trouble you...as long as you believed and confessed your sins, God forgave you and you are still saved by his blood no matter what you do now" or something like that. I lived for many years relying and depending on assurances like these, while continuing to use 99% of my time and energy to vigorously pursue success, wealth, luxury, and pleasure. But God has laid it on my heart that these assurances do not reflect the correct attitude. Whether or not someone like this is in fact "saved" or not is God's decision, not mine or anyone else's. But there's something wrong when we are complacent about our "fruitlessness" or commitment to obey God, and instead rely on assurances that "we'll be ok...God forgave us".

    I want to be the fourth seed that fell on the good soil, and produce a crop yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown! Why? Because I owe everything to God. He created me, blessed me beyond measure through my family, birth in America, education, circumstances, my wife, my new daughter, financially, etc., etc. And also, because every other goal or purpose in life is ultimately a waste of time - of no eternal value. Read Ecclesiastes...I can relate to Solomon's arguments...he's right on the money!

    And incidentally, most Bible scholars and commentators will tell you that in their opinion and study, the fourth seed is the ONLY seed that represents someone who is "saved".

    So, after much prayer and study (which is continuing daily), my wife and I feel called to pursue full-time service to God. We are not sure what that will look like exactly. We are very interested in orphan ministry and have visited orphanages in Russia, where others are helping them and sharing God's love with these poor forgotten children. We may actually end up moving to Voronezh, Russia to work with a gentleman named Gennadiy Petrov who has a ministry feeding almost 400 people a week, and another ministry that puts on weekend, week-long, and 3 week camps for orphans.

    Another thing we were planning to do was to adopt an older child from a Russian orphanage. Her name is Lyena. We were hoping to have this adoption completed and have her in our home by spring of 2005. After spending an enormous amount of time and money on this adoption, God closed the door on it. Because we were simply trying to be obedient and do what God wanted, we accepted this change in plans despite being personally very disappointed. We still pray for Lena and want to do whatever we can to help her, but it will be difficult to do so. Our good friend Gennadiy still has contact with her, and is acting as a go-between so that we can still have some involvement in her life.

    During the course of the adoption process, we did receive several hundred dollars in donations from buyers on eBay, for which we are VERY appreciative! I wish we could report that thanks to your donations, a precious girl was rescued from tragic circumstances. But unfortunately we have little to show after washing $15,000 down the drain. That is from OUR point-of-view, however. I'm sure that Lyena's life was impacted through this process, seeing two virtual strangers show love to her and want to open their home to her. The final chapter has not been written to this story, and I trust God with the final outcome.

    With the failure of the adoption, the birth of our second child on December 6, 2005 (Praise God!), and the birth of our third child on April 1, 2008, we are basically in a holding pattern as we seek God's near-term plan for our lives. Our family is committed to going wherever God calls us. Whether that is to move to Russia or stay here we don't know yet. At this point, we are just staying put, but not putting our walk with God on hold. We are doing what we can to continue growing and contending for the truth. We realize that we need to surrender our will to God's will on a daily basis, and seek His guidance as we go about our day. Even when we're not in "full-time ministry".

    One thing that I continue to learn better and better is that my relationship with God (and desire to honor Him) thrives far better when I am volunteering and serving in some capacity (at church or some other ministry) than when I'm only a "user" of church programs. Church programs are great, and help lots of people. But in all honesty, they are meant as a stepping stone, leading each participant to deeper commitment and the desire or willingness to serve.

    I have learned this very well through my involvement with BSF International. It is an awesome weekly Bible Study. I attended the class as nothing more than a class member for a couple of years. I learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely. But I didn't feel that my relationship with God or my faith really deepened. When I agreed to be a discussion leader for the class, however, I did start to grow. This happened for several reasons. First, there was a higher level of accountability in the leadership circle. Second, I was required to do things that made me uncomfortable and that I felt inadequate to do. This required me to pray, ask God to help, and rely on Him to do so. Third, I developed a much deeper interest in the study, the people involved, and in God Himself.

    After serving as a discussion leader for several years, I was asked to consider being a childrens' leader. (The study teaches kids 1st-High School...the same material the parents are studying, but catered to their age and abilities). This was a HUGE stretch for me, because CLs actually prepare lessons and TEACH the students, whereas DLs are nothing more than facilitators. I had NO teaching experience, and was very uncomfortable around kids, as well as speaking in front of groups...a weekly requirement in this role. I realized that just as I had grown as a result of my inadequacies and trust in God as a DL, the same would happen as a CL - to a greater degree. Boy was I right!

    I was a CL for about 5 years, and also took on the role of Childrens' Supervisor in helping to launch a new BSF class for men and children in downtown San Francisco while I was trying to build a successful startup company in the Bay area. In BSF, I have seen God work miraculously through me despite my weaknesses and shortcomings. It is extremely good for your faith to be in a situation where you REQUIRE God's assistance - because you know that He will give it if you ask. And seeing him answer time and time again builds your trust in Him.

    Please feel free to e-mail me and comment on what you've read here. I'm always interested in other people's opinions. I certainly don't have an exclusive (if any) hold on wisdom and truth, although I do believe that the Bible does. And I enjoy conversing with people about this stuff - even if they disagree.


    (c) 2003 American Pride Amusements by John "Vectorman" Yates. Please send questions, comments, or suggestions about this site to our webmaster.