Arcade on the way to downtown Cooperstown

Apr. 19—Now that a decades-old ban on amusement arcades in Cooperstown has been lifted, a local video game collector and his family are working to bring an arcade business to Main Street.

The Cooperstown Board of Trustees amended a local zoning law in October to allow game rooms and recreational facilities by special permit in business and commercial districts — a process which gives planning and zoning officials an extra level of scrutiny over applications for development.

Joe and Katy De Sanno applied earlier this month for a special permit to allow them to open an arcade at 106 Main St. between Sal's Pizzeria and Pioneer Sports Cards, and above The Cooperstown Underground Barbershop.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet April 29 to discuss their application. The village planning board approved the business sign April 16.

The De Sannos and their three sons have lived in Cooperstown for seven years.

Joe De Sanno said Friday, April 19 that he has been collecting video game machines for a long time, and usually has between 15 and 25 machines at any given time at home.

"I was looking at Oneonta to build [an arcade] there," he said, "and then I was like, before we sign the lease on this, let's just make sure because I'd rather be in Cooperstown."

They signed the lease earlier this month on the 1,000-square-foot space once the local law was amended.

"Once we knew it was changed, we wanted to get in as soon as possible," Katy De Sanno said.

The outer space-themed carpet and ceiling black lights have been installed already.

On the way are the games — classic video games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter, plus games of skill like pinball, skeeball and basketball from which players can win tickets to redeem for prizes.

Joe De Sanno is a master electrician, and he said that the space is actually well set up to accommodate the multiple power outlets and amount of electricity it will take to run the place, though a few more receptacles and dedicated circuits are needed.

They hope the variety of games will attract both kids and their parents, who seem to like different kinds of games — the parents like Pac-Man and the kids like prizes.

"When I was a kid, everybody liked the video games," he said. "That was the attraction. But now, the kids these days like the tickets, they want to win the prizes."

Katy De Sanno said that people have been pretty excited about it so far.

"People have their particular games that they seem to like," she said. "Our goal is to kind of rotate them so people don't get sick of the same ones, just so there's always something kind of new going on for them."

They have invested around $80,000 into getting the business of the ground, not counting the machines Joe De Sanno bought for his collection.

If all goes well with the village permit and the arcade setup, the De Sannos hope to open by Memorial Day or shortly thereafter.

It would be the first arcade venue to be approved since the law was lifted, village Zoning Officer Chris de Ville said Friday.

The village's ban on arcades was a long-standing prohibition from the 1980s, attributed to the moral panic about much of youth culture at the time.

"It's kind of ironic," he said. "Now all the kids have phones in their pockets, they have constant access to video games. Now an arcade is a social space."