Original 80s Time Out Arcade Found in a Dead Mall in Virginia

In America, sentimental childhood memories of shopping malls  are often achingly moving.  According to one report, when Crossroads Mall in Roanoke, Virginia  was opened on July 26, 1961,  it was “like Christmas and Fourth of July combined”.

To another it was “as if everything bad in the world stopped the moment you walked through its doors”, and to yet another, “Every beautiful thing about my childhood happened and never escaped from there.”

Like many new malls popping up around the country in The 1960s, Crossroads was an enclosed, air-conditioned structure, the first of its kind ever built in the State of Virginia.   It’s anchor stores in 1961 were J. C. Penney, Winn-Dixie,  Peoples Drug,  Roses, and  the department store, S.H. Heironimus Co. Other original tenants included Bailey’s Cafeteria, Fink’s, Smartwear Irving-Saks, Cato Fashions, and Sidney’s to just name a few.

 

Over the decades Crossroads Mall adapted to changing times and markets, alternately incorporating and switching out trends as they faded and/or came into fashion. But by the late 90s, as with many malls across America,  ever expanding suburbia with it’s more convenient strip malls and one-stop-shopping centers, like Walmart, eclipsed the need for shopping malls altogether. Crossroads fell on hard times, and in 2011 found itself re-purposed for office and light retail space. Its days of being a destination-excursion were over.

Among the many firsts Crossroads Mall pioneered in “mall history,” was that it was the first mall in the State of Virginia to not only have an arcade, but the first one to have a Time Out, the arcade chain that was also the very first chain to move into shopping malls on the East Coast.

Last week, workmen ripping into a wall discovered the “buried remains” of Crossroads Mall’s historic Time Out arcade, opened in 1978 and closed since approximately 1992, preserved in time. Unfortunately someone took the “TIME OUT” logo-sign before photos could be obtained.

(Photos courtesy of Phillip Carter\Carolina Arcade and Pinball Collectors)

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To arcade aficionados, the late 70s and mid 80s Time Out arcade design is the epitome of  ‘arcade ambiance‘ and has never been remastered or recreated anywhere since with any degree of success. Sensual, almost daringly sexy in contrast to every other style of retail mall arcade presented to the public at the time, Time Out arcades were dimly lit, almost dark, and had brightly colored divider\walls where games were set into compartmental booths so the player could feel  uncrowded and get “into the zone” with a game. These were the only retail arcade design build-outs that were ever created with the player –not the profit– first in mind. Uncannily and creatively envisioned, you didn’t just walk into a Time Out  -you were pulled in by feelings that you were riding a sensual conveyor belt, instantly enveloped by low-light shadows, multicolored walls and ceilings that gave you the sensation that your sensory perceptions were slightly askew. It was like you were high on electronic drugs, some say. Stoned in love.

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A Time Out arcade, circa 1984,  similar to the style uncovered by construction workers at the site of the former Crossroads Mall, in Roanoke, Virginia, in 2017.

New York candy entrepreneur, Tico Bonomo, envisioned Time Out in 1970  when he opened Time Out Family Amusement Center in the Northway Mall in Colonie, New York. In 1972, Atari’s PONG created a sensation in coin op retail and Bonomo, picking up on what he saw as a fad on the brink of exploding, opened up 11 more Time Out Amusment Centers in malls, and by 1978, when Space Invaders created mass interest in video arcade games, he expanded his arcade chain even further until Time Out arcades were planted in malls all over the eastern seaboard.

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Vintage 80s Time Out photo by Jim Miller and courtesy of Peter Hirshburg

Throughout The 80s Time Out provided an outlet for the serious player, but around 1992 the chain was sold to Edison Brothers Inc, Mall Management Division,  a large clothing retailer, who also owned and managed other arcade retail chains such as  Space Port and Station Break. However Edison Brothers never learned the knack for managing arcades and filed for bankruptcy in 1995.  Time-Out was then purchased by Namco LTD (some unconfirmed reports say SEGA), stripped of its iconic “electronic lair” look, and re-purposed into an another bland, run of the mill arcade chain that seemed to disappeared from history although the name “Time Out” was still in use in 2003.

The original Time Out arcades may be gone but they’re long from being forgotten. Their colors and exquisite layouts that excite sensory perception are thought about every time a collector lines up his or her games in the garage and wonders how they’re going to recreate and mimic that kind of atmospheric excellence again. Really, it’s just a dream we all know we can barely live up to if ever, but I guarantee you  –we all dream of it.

 

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The author in her home arcade


Check out the awesome TIME OUT PHOTO ALBUM HERE

Notes and sources:
Special thanks to arcade collector and event promoter, Ian Purdy
Time Out “discovery photos” by Phillip Carter
The Raleigh Register Newspaper Archives, 1960-1966, Urban Planning Division
Time Out Tunnel Archives by Peter Hirshberg 

 

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Original 80s Time Out Arcade Found in a Dead Mall in Virginia

  1. Great article! Suburban archaeology combined with video games. I grew up in Southern California, and was unaware of Time Out. The only similar franchise I recall was ‘Sega Center’; and they used tokens instead of quarters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting to see this spawned right in my area in Upstate NY! When I was a teen in the 90’s, the arcade that instantly stuck-out in my mind was in the Rotterdam Mall (Rotterdam, NY obviously) which bore the name SEGA’s Time Out to my best recollection, so it’s strange to see that Namco took it over; maybe one of them was an intermediary to the other?

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    1. I can confirm, I have a skee ball ticket that says Sega’s TimeOut. The Sega logo is at an angle above Time in the logo. It was from the Long Ridge Mall location in Greece, NY. At the same time there was a Station Break in Greece Town Mall next door. When they joined the two malls they built a new TimeOut at food court. I believe the old TimeOut is still there as the space has not been used and you can look through the door lock hole to see it 🙂

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  3. I remember Time Outs very well. Also Aladin’s Castle, Malibu Grand Prix, and all the other mom and pop arcades that were in malls and strip centers around town. This is a totally awesome discovery! Here is a video that brings back that nostalgia that us oldskewlers remember so fondly…. https://youtu.be/cbLNkQDQv2o

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  4. I grew up in Roanoke and spent countless hours in that very room. What a great blast from the past. Crossroads was “the” place to go for the pre-teen and teen set in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Thanks so much for the great memories!

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  5. During parts of 1985-1986, I was a shift manager at the McDonalds in Northway Mall across the hall from the arcade, and I used to spend a little time there. (Not much, I was married with a baby at home.) Because my work uniform was a light blue shirt and dark blue pants, I was often mistaken for the arcade manager and asked to make change. Little did I know that was probably the first Time Out ever. Wow.

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  6. Wow. I spent my share of quarters in that exact arcade and brought all the mall foot traffic to a complete standstill one day by “beating” Dragon’s Lair …. must have been 200 people watching. We had two Time Out arcades in Roanoke, but the one in this picture was always my favorite.

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  7. Can’t verify whether Sega ever owned Time-Out, but the original concept for the Thornton Town Center (Thornton, CO) included an arcade with a small number of miniature amusement rides, and the “Time Out! on the Court” sign was prominently cobranded with Sega.

    Some brief history of the Thornton Town Center at the link below, unfortunately no pictures of the arcade. I was young and we didn’t shop at the Biggs Hypermarket often, so I only vaguely remember it and can’t recall if the arcade used any of the style elements discussed here.

    http://www.city-data.com/forum/denver/787371-thornton-town-center.html

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  8. The Time Out in Springfield Mall in Virginia was called “Time Out Hall.” It cut across a corner from one mall corridor to another, so you could actually enter at one end and exit from the other end.

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  9. Love this! In Minnesota, it was “Aladdin’s Castle” that sucked my quarters. We have a great retro arcade in the Boise, Idaho area now. It’s called “Grinker’s Grand Palace” and, although it lacks the aesthetics of “Time Out,” it has wall-to-wall retro uprights and is an amazing trip back in time. All for a quarter.

    http://www.grinkers.com/Location.aspx

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  10. Awesome find. I spent the likely equivalent of weeks (months?) in the earlier mentioned Springfield Mall Time Out in Virginia. In 79′-82′-ish I’d gather up every quarter I could and ride my bike there every chance I got, whether I was allowed to or not. Just being there was cool. Later in High School, I’d just drive there or at least go out of my way to stop on by when at the mall for something. But even in ’87, it was becoming not what it was before, and perhaps I was too.

    It still took who knows how many quarters out of me over those years…the kid equivalent of a casino! (Anyone remember arcade-politics? That SOB who was so good on Asteroids or Galaga or whatever played forever, so one had to mark their ownership of the next game with a quarter on the bottom on the monitor to both let them know you were both standing there *and* were claiming your rightful place in the next use of that game. :))

    I’m totally jealous of the Sinistar; as a 48 year old man, I easily conjure him up:

    Beware, I Hunger. Run Coward!

    Kind regards for the story.
    C

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    1. I do remember the arcade protocols that began with the aces who crowded around Space Invaders, then Asteroids; the click of a quarter being placed on the lower left of the screen, the immediate tension between players being palpable in the room. I remember it all 😊

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