Bob's Space Racers
Bob’s Space Racers, Inc. (BSR) is one of the oldest game manufacturers in the amusement business today, after spending over 45 years designing and building arcade games, amusement park attractions, trailer-mounted games, and even buildings for the amusement industry.
With customers in over 100 countries, BSR presently offers more than 70 different game varieties, while also specializing in custom-designed equipment.The company owns numerous patents, trademarks and copyrights. But, as people both in and outside of the industry might know, it’s most famous for Whac-A-Mole.
A seminal game like Skee-Ball, the Whac-A-Mole idea came to BSR from a carnival customer over 35 years ago. It has since become a household name with numerous varieties of the bopping-the-critters concept used in amusement park group games, videos and board-style games, and, of course, arcade redemption pieces. The company believes that the quarters generated from all of BSR’s Whac-A-Moles. . .if placed side by side. . . could circle the globe three times.
Originally, Bob’s Space Racers, Inc. only built park and trailer group games. Then at an IAAPA trade show years back, a representative from Showbiz Pizza (aka Chuck E. Cheese’s), approached Bob Cassata, BSR’s founder and owner, about converting the large Whac-A-Mole group game into a smaller two-player version that would make a good fit at a coin-op arcade. At first, Bob didn’t think it would be worth making a smaller version. But when Showbiz agreed to order 100 units, Bob quickly accepted.
At that moment, Bob Cassata and BSR had effectively joined the arcade business, with Showbiz Pizza becoming its first arcade customer. That original arrangement changed BSR’s strategy, as most every game they build today is expected to be made into an arcade game, park model game, or a trailer model game.
In the early 1980s, Bob’s Space Racers was among the early pioneers in the ticket redemption marketplace. Redemption made up a very small portion of the arcade market then, as all eyes were on the video and electronic pinball sectors. But, Cassata felt strongly that ticket games would eventually begin to gain ground, and over the years, they did. Today, redemption stands among the leading types of arcade games made and played.
Continuing with innovation in the industry, BSR has also created a new Family Entertainment Center (FEC) group game category as well. Their FEC games are smaller versions of the larger scale group games found in theme parks. BSR’s FEC ticket redemption games require a much smaller footprint while maintaining the larger game’s appearance and play-appeal. And, they don’t need a live attendant like the bigger versions do.
BSR has a wider variety of customers than most coin-op manufacturers. While most others usually focus on one product line, BSR provides both custom and standard arcade, FEC, park group models, trailer group models, and other skill games. The company also offers consulting and management services for arcade, park and carnival game operations, creating a huge customer base for itself. The company, as such, is positioned to withstand cyclical downturns in one segment or another.
Bob’s Space Racers is very hands-on when developing new games. Bob himself says that in order to properly sell a game, the manufacturer should have experience operating it first. So, after designing and building a new game, they put it out on their own operation or with a cooperating customer to field test its viability, durability, and earning power. “Most new game concepts have already undergone extensive real world testing before they are ever presented to our customers,” Cassata declared. “This is a slower process, but this technique gives our customers the best products,” he states. Bob’s name, as they say, is on every game.
Who Is Bob Cassata?
Bobby (as close friends call him) is considered by many to be an icon and legend in the amusement industry. Considering the global success he has enjoyed, it’s hard to imagine that his company started from very humble beginnings.
He first got into the industry when a friend at the construction company he then worked for asked him to manage his Daytona Beach boardwalk games during the summer, while this friend took games on the road for the year’s fair season. That’s when Bob first caught the games bug. Shortly after, he decided to start his own road business with his wife, Joyce. In 1967, Bob built his own Pitch-Till-You-Win and 3-Pin Bowling games in an old burnt-out mobile home frame that he bought and rebuilt in his garage for $150. This was the start of the BSR family business.
In 1968, Bob and Joyce left Daytona Beach and took their games trailer to a couple of fairs in the northern United States. This is where they first met Jack Mendes through a family friend. Jack had been studying business in college when Bob hired him to help on the road during the summer, and later to join him to develop a new game concept.
Bob had been working on a brand new trailer-mounted track race game at the time. The game would be a competitive group race game where players would press a handle that threw a ball over a barrier that made spaceships race up a vertical track. The game was called Bob’s Space Racers, which later became the company name.
Cassata intended to operate them himself, but other carnival operators saw the potential profits and asked to buy some for themselves. Bob sold his first Space Racers game in 1970, and with this new-found opportunity at hand, he moved out of that garage and started building games at a larger facility in Holly Hill, Florida. . .the Daytona suburb where the manufacturing plant still stands.
Over the years, the BSR plant has grown and now occupies a 15-acre “campus” with over 100,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space under one roof. They currently have over 100 skilled employees that produce the machines and attractions seen all over the U.S.A. and in many foreign countries.
Today, you would be hard pressed to ever find someone that has not played a BSR game, whether it be one of Bob’s water race games, the world famous Whac-A-Mole or one of the many of other games that the company has since produced.
People who know Bob Cassata, know that his attention to detail and pursuit of perfection was evident in his products during all the years he ran the company and spent countless hours in hands-on line work. It’s not hard to still find games that are over 40 years old and still in active use at many parks and game rooms.
In 2008, Bob retired from the company he built. Most people would think that after many tireless years in the amusement business, he’d begin to take it easy and start to enjoy the many benefits that come with retirement. But, well aware that his name is still firmly affixed to every game that leaves the plant, Bob stays active behind the scenes monitoring many aspects of the business, like the company’s weekly tech reports, because he understands the importance of keeping customers up and running.
The quality built into BSR’s products is evident to anyone who walks through the front doors of their reception area where they’re greeted by hundreds of plaque awards lining the walls, dozens of trophies on shelves, along with Bob’s biggest awards like his 2014 induction into the IAAPA Hall of Fame. Also proudly mounted are his 2010 OABA Pioneer Award, his IISF Hall of Fame award and his 1992 Inc Magazine Regional Entrepreneur of the Year citation, all honoring Bob’s success and dedication throughout his many years in the amusement industry.
Bob’s 2014 Induction into the IAAPA Hall of Fame is his biggest accolade, having joined this group of early pioneers and modern day innovators that continue to shape the amusement industry, like Walt and Roy Disney, Milton Hershey, P.T. Barnum, and Wilbert Morey, just to mention a few.
Today, if you were to ask Bob Cassata what his greatest business accomplishment has been, he’d say it was customer loyalty and the devotion of his family and employees, many of whom have been with BSR for several decades. Bob considers this team as much a part of the family as his own blood relations. . .especially Jack Mendes, who’d been with Bob since the company’s inception until his own retirement in 2009.
Bob prides himself on preserving a company, which most would consider a family-run business as his daughter Glenda serves as current CEO, and his son-in-law Jack Cook as President. Both are devoted to continue to maintain Bob’s vision and high standards for every game BSR produces.
Visit Bob’s Space Racers on the web at www.bobsspaceracers.com.
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