Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Bally Manufacturing Corp.
Bally Manufacturing Corp.

Bally Manufacturing Corp.

Bally originated as the Lion Manufacturing Corp., a firm established in Chicago in 1931 by Raymond J. Moloney. Lion created the popular “Ballyhoo” pinball machine, produced by a subsidiary called the Bally Manufacturing Co. Lion began to make slot machines in the late 1930s; during World War II, it made detonator fuses and gun sights. In 1968, Lion became the Bally Manufacturing Corp., led by William O'Donnell. In the mid-1970s, annual sales reached $200 million, and the company employed about 2,300 people in the Chicago area. Although it suffered a setback in the late 1970s when O'Donnell was forced to resign because of alleged links to organized crime, Bally found success in the new video game industry. Bally's video arcades and electronic games, which included Space Invaders (introduced in 1979) and Pac Man (1980), soon accounted for half of its revenues. Meanwhile, the company bought health clubs, the Six Flags amusement park chain, and several casinos; by the late 1980s, annual revenues exceeded $2 billion, and Bally had about 33,000 workers nationwide. In 1996, two years after it changed its name to Bally Entertainment Corp., the company was acquired by Hilton Hotels Corp. of California. Its health club business, which had become an independent company a few years earlier, remained based in Chicago. At the end of the 1990s, Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., the largest U.S. operator of health clubs, employed about 2,000 people in the Chicago area and had nearly $900 million in annual revenues from its 375 clubs nationwide.