An interview with John Krol, marketing director at WhirlyBall.
Q: What is WhirlyBall?
WhirlyBallAddress: 800 E. Roosevelt Road, Lombard
Owner: Sam Elias
Year business started: 1993
Web address: whirlyball.com
Number of employees: 25
A: WhirlyBall is a venue for holiday parties, off-site meetings, team-building events, product launches and the entire gamut of corporate events. It's also a unique mechanized sport played from a souped-up bumper car combining basketball, lacrosse and hockey. Off the court we have an outstanding chef-driven menu, as well as a wide range of customizable catering options for all types of private events from simple to elegant.
Q: How do you cater to the corporate client?
A: Our experienced sales managers work closely with our clients to plan spectacular, distinctive events to suit every need and budget size. They've been doing it successfully for years because they enjoy what they do.
Q: What about food options and catering?
A: We really have so much to choose from. We change things up quite often, and the Sesame Tuna Poke has been quite popular lately -- raw tuna, scallion, sesame oil, soy sauce, togarashi, sriracha, red onion, and kool-aid pickled serrano for a little extra kick. Another new favorite is the Korean Style Pork Ribs, grilled with a gochujang Korean BBQ sauce.
Q: What size events can you accommodate?
A: Since the renovation and expansion a number of years ago, we've hosted sensational events with as few as 8 guests and as many as 200+ at our Lombard location. And the new 50,000-square-foot Chicago location can now accommodate even larger groups.
Q: Who invented WhirlyBall?
A: As the story has been told, the owner of an automotive repair shop came home one day in 1962 and found his sons playing an improvised game of street hockey using sticks, a ball and golf carts. Of course, regular bumper cars could not be used, since they were slow, hard to maneuver and the pole running up to the ceiling would get in the way. So faster, more durable and agile cars had to be developed, along with a special floor.
Q: Tell us where it started and how it has grown.
A: WhirlyBall was delivered to Lombard in 1993 after Sam, our owner, fell in love with the concept at a birthday party his wife hosted for him at a WhirlyBall in Florida. After three successful years in Lombard, it was time for a place in the big city. The Chicago location opened in 1996 as the largest WhirlyBall in the world. Looking to the north, 2004 saw the opening of the third location in Vernon Hills where a lasertag arena was introduced.
A bigger, better new home in the Bucktown area is located at 1825 W. Webster (near Elston), on the east side of the Kennedy Expressway.
January 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of WhirlyBall in Lombard, and we're planning to celebrate big. The exact details are still classified -- so stay connected to social channels and watch for announcements!
Q: Tell us one unique fact about the venue.
A: Prior to our 1993 opening in Lombard, that address was the home of Blue Suede Shoes, which was formerly a place with roller-skating waitresses where you could "singalong with supper" -- called Sally's Stage.