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Replay Amusement Museum brings video game, pinball nostalgia to Tarpon Springs (w/video)

TARPON SPRINGS — Dodge ghosts with Ms. Pac-Man and smack pinballs until your fingers go numb, but don't call it an arcade. Visitors won't pay by the quarter at Brian and Becky's Replay Amusement Museum, opening today (Oct. 3).

The historic district storefront features more than 80 arcade games, from the household names to the rarities, as well as 40 vintage pinball machines.

"You play tic-tac-toe only so many times. Pinball is wild," said Brian Cheaney, 36. "You can play 10,000 balls and you're going to get 10,000 different games. That's really our jewel of this place."

By day, the Cheaneys run a Tampa printing company. But for years, they've made a hobby of collecting games, which run anywhere from $200 to $10,000 a pop. They took over the dining room, friends' houses and sometimes even the box trucks at work. Isn't there a point when enough is enough?

"That's what happened," said Becky Cheaney, 31, laughing.

They had to free up space but didn't want to sell games, so the museum idea was born. The Cheaneys bought the Tarpon Avenue property this year. The couple said they think they have the largest publicly playable collection of pinball machines in the Southeast.

"These game rooms are a thing of the past," said Kelly McWeeney, a popular Tampa Bay area pinball and arcade technician making last minute repairs at Replay. He only rarely comes across collections of a similar size. "This is going to blow some people away."

The Cheaneys are hoping that people in their late 20s to late 60s will be enthralled by the chance to revisit the machines from their childhood. But that doesn't mean they're counting out today's smartphone-obsessed kids.

"They can have every video game in here on one one-hundredth of the memory of their phones," Brian Cheaney said.

But gliding the finger across an iPhone screen doesn't give players the same experience as gripping arcade controls, he said, adding that he has watched his 10-year-old son and others adapt to and enjoy the foreign style of play.

A good example at Replay is Paperboy, the classic 1984 Atari game where players must forcefully steer the bike handlebars to deliver newspapers in suburbia without crashing.

The Cheaneys hope their collection will be as educational as it is fun.

Becky Cheaney was drawn to her husband's hobby at first not by the game play but by the art. Brian Cheaney raves about the physics lessons to be learned from pinball.

They hope one day students will come on field trips to play and learn. And, naturally, to mash buttons on the museum's jukebox in search of the Who's Pinball Wizard.

Contact Julie Kliegman at jkliegman@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4159. Follow @jmkliegman.

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