Foosball, Billiards & Air Hockey Maker Hits Major Milestone
By Trey Stites, National Sales Manager, Valley-Dynamo
Wigs, fleet servicing and homebuilding…Bill Rickett tried and failed to start a business for each one of these products prior to founding Dynamo in 1973. When he crossed paths with a foosball operator in Dallas, Texas, at a bar called The Sports Page, this new business idea was hatched.
But before we get there, it’s worth describing how the foosball business worked in the early 1970s. At the time, importers ran the market. Most importers had a business model that allowed the company to “lease” out each of their tables and make a profit through revenue share. For all intents and purposes, a consumer, or even an operator, was not allowed to own their own foosball table.
The problem was they weren’t built to last. Bill learned all this at the Dallas bar after he bought a beer for the operator he met, and it would go on to be one of the most important Budweisers he ever drank. In the following years, Bill would establish his own route of coin-operated foosball tables.
When you spend most of your time working on gaming equipment, you start to come up with ideas on how to improve the product, whether it be to make things easier, make a higher profit or both. Bill knew he needed to craft a cabinet that would stand up to heavy play and made plans only to operate, not sell.
It didn’t take long for work to begin on the first Dynamo foosball table, with the first factory opening conveniently in Bill’s garage. The idea became: “We will build the table, and you guys will buy it.” Seems simple enough right? Spoiler: It wasn’t.
Turns out manufacturing equipment is a great way to discover problems with your ideas, and Dynamo was no exception. Thankfully, Rickett had experience with failure and was able to shrug off early challenges to create a successful foosball table introduced first to North Texas, then the United States, then the world.
Dynamo wouldn’t stop there though. By 1977, they had designed their first pool table. Building video game/system cabinets and contract manufacturing were big at this time for Dynamo. Following that, they entered the table hockey market along with any other game they could find that came with opportunity.
By 1998, the company was successful enough to absorb one of the most prominent billiard manufacturers in U.S. history, Valley Recreational Products (Valley’s legal name has changed some over the years), under the direction of Rickett and other partners. Along with Valley came Tornado Foosball. It was at this time that Dynamo, Valley and Tornado all came under the same roof in Richland Hills, Texas, for the first time.
Following three decades of work creating an American manufacturing titan, Rickett sold the company to the Brunswick Corp. in 2003. Within a few years, the company had moved all manufacturing operations across the border to Reynosa, Mexico, with a portion of the staff remaining in Texas.
Thankfully for us, the Brunswick made a key strategic decision to focus their efforts on marine manufacturing at that same time and decided to seek to release many of their table sports operations, including Valley-Dynamo. Who better to answer that call than Bill’s own son-in-law, Kelye Stites, who had been growing his own successful shuffleboard manufacturing operation since 1989 in, you guessed it, Richland Hills.
What happened next was one of the biggest leaps of faith of Stites’ career. Almost immediately after the sale, the Reynosa plant was shut down and trucks started filling up and heading northbound. Although the process was far from smooth, within a year, Valley-Dynamo had moved all operations back to the Lone Star State.
For Dynamo, it meant a return home to where it all started in a touching story of the prodigal business. Manufacturing in the United States, and Texas specifically, continues to be a major source of pride for the company as many of their peers left for other pastures years ago.
Today, Dynamo is still building pool tables, table hockey and foosball with the same tenacity and innovation as they were five decades ago. Just like our tables in the field and home, we hope to be around for the next five!
Visit www.valley-dynamo.com to learn more about the company’s wide range of products.