Pacific Pinball Museum to stay in Alameda

Pacific Pinball Museum to stay in Alameda

Michele Ellson

The Pacific Pinball Museum is planning to lease and restore the city's long-vacant Carnegie Library, its leaders announced Monday, a move that will keep the museum on-Island.

The 11-year-old museum's leaders and the city have signed a letter of intent detailing plans for the museum to lease the 111-year-old library building, at the corner of Santa Clara Avenue and Oak Street, for 30 years. The museum would also complete restoration of the old library, with costs estimated at $3.5 million.

“It is extremely important to our mission that we occupy a building of historical significance,” Larry Zartarian, chairman of the museum's board, was quoted as saying in a press release. “The 1902 Carnegie Library is a testament to American education and an ideal location for the PPM to educate visitors about art, science and history as related to pinball and its uniquely American heritage.”

City Manager John Russo cheered the proposed lease deal in the same release; a lease would be subject to the City Council's approval, for which a date has not yet been set.

The museum offers 90 games to view and play at its current storefront location on Webster Street, but has about 2,000 in storage, The Alamedan reported in 2012; the release did not say whether the museum's leaders plan to keep the Webster Street storefront. The warehoused games are stored in a building at Alameda Point that has been plagued by leaks, museum leaders have said.

The museum's leaders had sought to raise $1.5 million to set up shop in the space formerly occupied by the Exploratorium in San Francisco, but the Kickstarter campaign they launched raised less than $15,000.

The new location would permit the museum's leaders to show off more of what they've collected, and to offer space for community events, exhibits and classrooms, the press release says.

The city spent $4 million to restore the Carnegie and to make it earthquake-safe, but the building lacks heat and requires new electrical, plumbing and accessibility upgrades. The building has sat vacant since 1998.

The city had considered moving the Alameda Museum to the Carnegie Library, but voters nixed the sales tax increase the city would have used to fund restoration efforts and the move.

Related: Pinball museum raising funds for San Francisco move


Submitted by D (not verified) on Tue, Nov 19, 2013

So they couldn't raise $1.5M to move to SF, so they're going to spend $3.5M to renovate a space and then rent it? Something isn't adding up here.

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Thu, Nov 21, 2013

I enjoyed pinball as a kid, but giving up the Carnegie Library to this type specific museum operation for 30 years negates a more collective museum use for our city. $3.5 million for refurb to be paid by what pinball operation 8financing? Show me the money!

Submitted by Carnegie Belong... (not verified) on Thu, Nov 21, 2013

I can think of so many other uses for this building that would benefit all Alamedans, not just pinball fans. I have nothing against pinball - but a 30 year lease for a building to a private entity like the pinball museum just seems imprudent. The building could be made into a lovely reception venue/special event space/cultural center for local arts groups etc... to be shared by all - not just those who like pinball. Honestly, our boys quit going there because they felt it was too costly to play. I've been baffled about its non-profit status too. Is it really a non-profit or is it a business pretending to be one? The whole corner could be transformed into a cultural center - especially if the CVS ever leaves and can be torn down and a city plaza built there.

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Thu, Nov 21, 2013

Here is what Petaluma, a city similar in history and size to Alameda, has done with its Carnegie.

Submitted by Michael Schiess (not verified) on Fri, Nov 22, 2013

While I appreciate the concern some have expressed towards the Carnegie becoming a pinball museum I feel the need to clarify some points. Our group is a 501 c 3 non profit and has been in good standing with the IRS for 9 years. We do an enormous amount of community work, teaching science, art and history, the main room of the Carnegie will be used for special exhibitions and a community art center. Most of what we wish to display is 1870 to 1950, an era appropriate to this building: Please check out the exhibition we did for the San Francisco Airport Museum in 2010: and an article I wrote for Pinball News:
We hope the citizens of Alameda will support this effort which brings something unique to our town that is educational, artistic and fun while breathing life back into one of it's forgotten architectural treasures. Please look at our new website for more information on what we do: or come by the museum for a free look.

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Thu, Nov 28, 2013

Andrew Carnegie would turn over in his grave if he knew of this possibility!