An interview with Shawn Thresher, general manager at Accelerate Indoor Speedway & Events in Mokena.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the venue/business.
Address: 8580 Springlake Drive, Mokena, Illinois, 60448
Number of employees: More than 50
When business opened: January 9, 2018
Web address: acceleratespeed.com
A: We are a 75,000 square-foot, racing themed entertainment center where anyone looking for fun, unique experiences can do everything from racing our Italian-made, Formula 1-inspired pro-karts that can reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour to experiencing immersive multiplayer virtual reality to ax throwing to playing old school arcade games.
Because the karts are electric, you don't have to wear a fire suit or worry about smelling like gas or exhaust. They accelerate in an instant and are smooth in the corners, the straightaways and through the entire LeMans -- or Monaco -- inspired course.
In addition to karts, we have one of the area's largest arcades, the first axe-throwing arena in the Chicago Southland area and the Midwest's very first "Chaos Jump VR" -- which is an immersive, multiplayer, virtual reality attraction. Our full-service restaurant, Victory Lap Bar & Grill offers surprisingly great food and awesome "skybox type views of the exciting racing and all of our other attractions.
Q: Explain the history. How did it get started?
A: Brothers David and Mike Larson, who are two of the six owners, dreamed of starting a thriving attraction to the Chicago Southland area where they grew up.
Thanks to the overwhelming support of the local business and residential community, Accelerate has become one of the Chicago area's hottest destinations, group events. Chicago Southland is thriving. We're proud to be part of it, and we're delighted that businesses and residents from all over the Chicagoland area have gotten the opportunity to enjoy the heart racing, edge-of-your-seat thrills that only Accelerate can offer.
Q: What do you offer when it comes to corporate meetings?
A: We have a large, fully equipped corporate conference room with a giant, connected presentation screen, surround sound and wireless internet that's super fast (like our karts). It can accommodate up to hundreds of people.
Our tag line for company events is "No More Boring Events." So, once you are done with all the hard part of the day, things get really fun as everyone gets the chance to compete for bragging rights as the fastest driver or the best ax thrower or even the top Bot Destroyer in Chaos Jump VR.
We specialize in team building events and we have many options to choose from including racing competitions, pit crew challenge and office Olympics, which is arcade based. When we break people into teams for Axe Throwing the results are nothing short of amazing. As someone who has won multiple competitions and championships within our own company, I can say you can never have too many medals, trophies or belts to wear around the office to remind your co-workers of your victories.
Seriously, nothing brings a group together like friendly competition, and between the arcade, the VR, the ax throwing, Victory Lap Bar & Grill and, of course, the racing, it's an experience your organization will never forget.
Q: Describe the atmosphere.
A: One of our cores values is "Think Young. Have Fun." It's a culture that permeates every part of our business because we take having fun very seriously.
Whether you are racing, playing an arcade game, eating, watching, or simply celebrating a win, we want you to enjoy every minute you are here. We want you to leave happier than when you arrived and for some of that energy to carry you through the rest of your for weeks to come.
Q: What are people in your industry talking about? What's trending?
A: A lot of people talk about the Millennial Generation and how they value experiences over things. We believe that desire applies to all ages. It challenges businesses like ours to deliver moments that become memories. We take that challenge very seriously and work hard everyday to provide our guests exciting and unique experiences that are both memorable and meaningful.
Whether it's slick, stylish, Formula 1-inspired racing or VR or the latest arcade game or ax throwing, we want to be on the cutting edge (pun intended) of the amusement industry. We will always be looking to create new experiences with a healthy dose of exhilaration. Even if you just want to relax at the bar and restaurant, we also want you to leave with a sense of exhilaration. We want you to have a blast in the moment and leave with something you will want to share.
Q: Tell us one interesting fact about the business that most people may not know.
A: We use the power of the sun to operate our building and to power our high speed electric go karts. We have a large array of solar panels on the roof here and during those really glorious 95+ Degree days we're capturing the natural solar power and turning that into our most used resource, electricity. It feels that much better knowing they are brought to you courtesy of the sun.
Q: Tell us about the food at your on site restaurant, Victory Lap Bar & Grill.
A: We are a scratch kitchen. We make almost everything on our menu right here in house. Over 70 percent of our menu is locally sourced, including our beef and chicken, our two best selling items (chicken tenders and burgers).
We prep and prepare food everyday, we never make food days in advance, and we don't live out of a freezer.
We take immense pride in our menu and make every dish to order, so you never get anything that wasn't specifically made to your specifications. Just like our go-karts aren't your typical go-karts, Victory Lap is not your typical bar. We have 16 craft beers on tap as well as some great signature cocktails. Our food and beverage selection is sure to have something for everyone.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What is your past experience in the industry?
A: I was born and raised on the East Coast (Boston), and I started in the restaurant industry as a teenager. I went from unloading Lobster Boats to a Kitchen Manager right out of high school.
With 20 years in the hospitality industry, I was super excited about this location and to be a part of the whole process, from the ground up. I've seen this place go from a plot of land to a fully loaded entertainment destination.
I grew up in the 80s and early 90s and can remember going to the arcade and pouring handfuls of quarters into the games and playing all day. I would've dreamed to have a place like this to go, and I get to come here and relive those same memories through the families that come in every day.
I've been with the company for 2 years and believe in its people and its culture. It's the perfect job for me because it brings together my three favorite passions -- food and racing and a nice arcade, all under one roof.