Valley Dynamo Pushes Pool, Foosball and More Into the Future
Valley Dynamo LP is well known for building top quality coin-operated pool tables, air hockey tables, foosball tables and shuffleboard tables. The company proudly makes them all in the United States. Even better, they say, their products are all built in the great state of Texas.
Now with a vast operation that includes various product lines, it all started in 1945. Initial products built included coin-op shuffleboards and Valley’s iconic Bumper Pool. Pool tables came along around 1957. Tornado brand foosball tables have been around since 1970, Dynamo brand air hockey since 1973, Connelly Billiards since 1980 and Champion Shuffleboard since 1988.
In 2009, all brands were consolidated under new ownership and relocated to Richland Hills, Texas (just outside of Fort Worth), under the roof of a massive, 120,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant, where they remain a decade later.
“The thought process behind combining all of these storied brands under one roof was to give our customers a one-stop-shop experience,” said COO Nick Baron. “If a location needed a pool table but not the standard bar box table, we can offer them a Connelly Billiard table that looks much more traditional.”
As a business with longtime industry roots, it’s no surprise that most of their employees have either worked for Valley, Dynamo or Champion Shuffleboard. There are some who started with Valley while they were still in high school. Others who worked for Bill Rickett at Dynamo in the early 1990s. It’s that experience that goes into the work they do.
“The backbone of any Valley Dynamo product is durability and keeping the street operator in mind when we design our products,” Baron said. “We will not sell direct and have always maintained the relationship between the street operator and the location owner as a very sacred relationship. We also only sell our numerous products through our distributors and dealer network, and never direct to locations or operators. Quality, durability and earnings have always driven our business model.”
That quality and durability all happens in their large Texas plant (everything is bigger in Texas, after all).
“It amazes people who tour our factory that we literally start the manufacturing process at one end of the plant with flat sheets of plywood or MDF, and at the complete opposite end of the plant, we ship out finished product,” Baron noted. “We don’t import kits and assemble, and we don’t order containers of pre-made products.
“We pride ourselves on giving the customer a huge degree of freedom when it comes to customization and options because we control the manufacturing. It happens 30 feet from my office.”
Most recently, the assembly line has been moving Cosmic Thunder, part of Valley Dynamo’s new era lineup in air hockey.
The table features a polycarbonate, scratch-resistant playing surface with the scoring units built into the table under the playfield. Cosmic Thunder also features state-of-the-art LED lighting on nearly every surface of the table, as well as a music track that overlays game play. The air hockey table comes with shield guards to protect against flying pucks, too. It began shipping in April.
“Some might feel Dynamo is late to the game with a polycarbonate playfield, but we realized this wasn’t just a drop-in replacement,” Baron explained. “It involved more work, more study, more engineering. After listening to operator feedback, we didn’t want to go with a polycarbonate top simply because it’s the ‘happening thing,’ but because it would improve the experience for operators, locations and players.”
He continued that the reason they designed the in-playfield scoring for Cosmic Thunder was due to what operators were telling them. “We had so much feedback from operators about the difficulty in mounting the overhead score units, as well as just the way they impeded a customer’s view in an FEC or location. We really wanted to make an all-in-one table with every improvement that had been suggested or imagined throughout the years,” he said.
That type of dedication to the development of a table, the company says, is the reason operators happily keep them on location 10, 20 and even 30 years. “They count on our dependability for the long-term.”
It’s that relationship – with operators and distributors to locations and players – that’s crucial to the process. Taking time to listen is important.
“While everyone listens to some degree, not everyone experiments, tests and burns a little midnight oil so the changes you make are an improvement and evolution, and not a reaction,” Baron said. Using their Competition Cushions as an example, he said, “Players said we should test ‘Brand X’ rail. Was ‘Brand X’ better? Maybe in a few respects, but there were other things our rails did better.”
Baron continued that because of that feedback – and really listening to it – they set out to engineer a cushion rail that’s 30 percent more lively. “The new Competition Cushion Rail will retro-fit to all Valley tables 1999-present without modification and with slight modification they will fit tables up to 30 years old,” he said.
What is the tech behind it? “It’s a combination of a re-design in the cushion wood and a new rubber composition has enabled us to get a more reactive response from the cushion rails,” he elaborated.
“All Valley tables are now being built with Competition Cushion Rails, and we have current inventory of brand-new rails on hand and ready to ship within the next business day for customers who want to retro-fit.”
The thoughtful changes and attention to detail and feedback are what keeps Valley Dynamo in the pocket, so to speak. Small things like going to a flush corner on their Panther series tables and the introduction of a single-goalie Tornado foosball table maintained their reputation.
“It’s all about the product evolving and improving,” Baron said. “Not about sticking a flag up to see what way the wind’s blowing today.”
More information about the company is at www.valley-dynamo.com.