PAPA: The Flood

On the evening of Friday, September 17, 2004, just five days after the end of the PAPA 7 World Pinball Championships, an unusually severe flood put the PAPA facility under five feet of water. Prior to this, the facility had not flooded since the 1950's. In the 1960's, nearby Chartiers Creek was retrenched and new drainage systems were put in place. There had been no flooding since that time.

This flood was well beyond the "100 year flood line" and was essentially a freak occurrence. The remnants of Hurricane Ivan dumped a recordsetting 5.95 inches of rain on the Pittsburgh area in just a single day, on top of already saturated grounds from record rainfall throughout the year. The Carnegie area, where the PAPA World Headquarters are located, was particularly hard hit.

The floodwaters carried silt, debris, sewage, and diesel fuel. Every pinball machine was submerged at least up to the backglass, and every surface within five feet of the ground, including playfields and inside cabinets, was coated in the floodwater sludge. The sludge was a sanitary hazard and immediately destroyed materials such as electronics, press board, and playfield artwork.

Two hundred and thirty-two pinball machines were destroyed, as well as a handful of classic video games, an extremely rare Tattoo Assassins prototype, a sitdown Omega Race, some great dancing games, et cetera. We were able to salvage many plastics, some boards, coin mechs, backglasses, and most of the playfield glasses. This process did not take place until a professional cleanup and restoration company had been through the facility.

Pictures of the original renovation progress are here.
Pictures of the floodwaters rising are here.
Pictures of the post-flood damage are here.

On December 6, 2004, plans were announced to rebuild and relaunch PAPA, and the PAPA 8 World Pinball Championships were held in August 2005, with 277 pinball machines available to play. A major factor in deciding to rebuild was the huge level of support found in feedback from everyone after the flood. Players, collectors, vendors, and other enthusiasts sent hundreds of e-mails, and we appreciated every single one.