There's something new coming to Trinity Groves in West Dallas, and for once it's not a restaurant: It's Free Play, a popular local arcade chain, which will open at 3015 Gulden Rd., in the former 3015 at Trinity Groves event space.
Free Play made its DFW debut with a first location that opened in Richardson in 2015. Three more locations have opened since, in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Denton.
Each boasts dozens of games, some vintage from the 1980s, including titles such as Ms. Pac Man, Defender and Tempest. In addition to the games, the arcade includes a dining area with food, cocktails, and craft beers.
All have a cool retro theme and a unique payment approach: As the name suggests, every video is set to "free play" mode, with patrons paying a single entry price for unlimited play on every game in the arcade.
Their goal is to offer the best arcade games, in the best condition, to everyone. "No matter what it takes, we want you to walk into a retro arcade that has working games, running real components, just as they did when they were released," their mission says.
Founder Corey Hyden says that opening an arcade in Dallas was a goal, and the Trinity Groves space — which was slated to become a kitchen equipment demo store, until that fell through during the pandemic — turned out to be ideal.
"It's good for us, and it's good for Trinity Groves," Hyden says. "Our customers are the young gamers, we'll bring in that traffic to Trinity Groves, and meanwhile we're looking to broaden our appeal to everyone. They're launching more restaurants and it's about to be a beehive of activity."
Dallas will be the largest Free Play yet.
"It's officially a little more than 10,000 square feet, although I think it's even bigger," Hyden says. "Our biggest so far is Arlington, at 9,000 square feet."
"But beyond the size, I think the coolest thing about the Dallas location is that there isn't a single wall or beam inside," he says. "It's a cool old grain silo building with a sloped roof. So we'll be able to use the space much more creatively. We'll be able to put more games, and big games we haven't put in any of our other arcades."
They'll also feature what has been the biggest game trend in recent years: the good old-fashioned pinball machine.
"Pinball is experiencing a huge resurgence not only in the U.S. but around the world," Hyden says. "There are now four to five manufacturers in the U.S. making machines, plus international manufacturers. It's been the biggest surprise in the arcade world."
The other trend that Hyden has seen at his arcades is a stronger interest in cocktails, especially since the pandemic.
"We'll always feature craft beers, but people have gravitated towards cocktails and we've improved our bar program, increasing the selection and quality of our cocktails," he says.
He's hoping to be open by the holidays, with only one thing standing in the way: His mildly obsessive desire to make the Dallas location super tricked out.
"We're planning on a ton of light shows, using everything we've learned about design, with more high-tech stuff including video matrix devices and cool A/V displays," he says. "The goal is to feature things that people haven't seen before."