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Skeeball is in the house


Up-Down will host skeeball league play for 10 weeks starting in January.

Up-Down will host skeeball league play for 10 weeks starting in January.

Ever heard of the Pinball Wizard? “He ain’t got no distractions; can’t hear those buzzers and bells; don’t see lights a flashin’; plays by sense of smell; always has a replay; never tilts at all. That deaf, dumb and blind kid, sure plays a mean pin ball.” (Insert Pete Townsend’s wicked lick here.)

The titular character Tommy, from The Who’s rock opera of the same name, could do no wrong when it came to the coin-operated arcade game. Now with Up-Down’s popularity on the rise as THEE place to go for coin-operated games, they’ve added another classic sure to test the chops of everyone who steps up to the alley. Wizards beware, skeeball is in the house, and the only thing separating the competitor’s balls from the holes is 10-13 feet of wood. Oh, yeah.

There’s beauty in simplicity, and skeeball is a perfect example of that philosophy in action. You’ve got nine throws for a quarter in the hopes of getting 900 points, a perfect game. Though it is possible to end in a tie, two perfect games in one round are not likely. Whether you fancy yourself a skeeball wizard or a starlet, league play at Up-Down is sure to keep the entertainment high.

“Skeeball is something we knew we wanted to have, and we were lucky to find three games that had character but were durable enough to sustain nightly use,” said Josh Ivey, co-owner of Up-Down. “Response has been great, which is good, because I honestly don’t know if we could physically remove them from the space.”


The league play will last 10 weeks with a tournament to finish and decide which team reigns supreme. About a dozen teams have already registered, and the league holds no more than 24, so Ivey encourages people to sign up soon to solidify a spot.

“Every team will play two matches a week, which is a series of games played against another team. No team will commit more than an hour a week, though,” Ivey explained. “We will do as many leagues as there is demand for; hopefully people are ready for the next season right away after this one ends.”

Anyone interested in getting in a few warm-up games before league play picks up can practice on any of the three lanes at Up-Down (the center lane is “out of order” as of Dec. 21), but that’s not the only place in Des Moines to try your hand at skeeball. There are also lanes at Doc’s Lounge in Johnston and Brecks downtown… Oh, and Chuck E. Cheese’s — it may be “where a kid can be a kid,” but they serve beer and pizza.

“Skeeball requires a level of determination, intelligence and physical prowess that is unrivaled by any other sport,” Ivey said. “My hope is that we see skeeball pop up in the 2018 Olympic games.” CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Up-Down Skeeball League starts in January to begin a 10-week league on Monday nights. A sign-up and rules meeting will be held at Up-Down on Jan. 5 at 2 p.m.

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