What do axe throwing, pingpong tournaments, Pac-Man and secret missions all have in common? They’re examples of the latest adult team-building activities available in the Chicagoland market that have helped event planners elevate meetings to the next level. Ed Graziano, founder of Corporate Event Interactive, which has specialized in coordinating a range of activities for corporate and association groups for the past 30 years, has seen the impact of how team-building add-ons can transform meetings in very signifi cant ways.
“Getting a group outside, or at least away from the meeting room, is really important,” says Graziano. “Team events create opportunities for meeting attendees to connect in meaningful ways, which is invaluable in business, especially in this modern age of electronic communication.” In recent times, Graziano has also noticed that socially responsible events that benefit community-based organizations are becoming increasingly popular, as are scavenger hunts that challenge groups to work out solutions together.
Here are just some of the latest options available for groups this fall.
Thunderbolt Axe Throwing
Cue your inner lumberjack. The Thunderbold Axe Throwing venue in the Portage Park neighborhood gives guests the chance to grab an axe and hurl it at wooden targets on the wall across 10 lanes. Not only is it cathartic (bye, work stress!), but it also allows participants to learn a challenging skill that requires persistence and attention to detail in an upbeat environment that builds comradery. “Most people are new to it, so they’re all on the same page, learning side-by-side,” says owner Scott Hollander. “The team bonding is inevitable and memories are always made.” As one of the newest options in town, axe throwing has been sparking interest in groups of all kinds, according to Hollander, from birthdays for 80-year-olds to “Game of Thrones”–themed bachelorette parties.
Always wanted to train to be a secret agent? Now you can do so with a group of colleagues in just one hour. EscapeHouse Chicago, in River North, builds on the popularity of escape rooms with an espionage element—“recruits” have 60 minutes to decipher riddles and clues to solve their way through a locked room (one looks like a replica of the White House Oval Office) and save the day. “EscapeHouse Chicago offers the only fully immersive experience of its kind,” says field operative Agent Argyle, aka William Cox with Marcus Corporation, which owns and operates the property. “Every aspect is carefully coordinated to create an unbroken secret agent experience, and each group is assigned an agent handler to assist them via cameras and information feeds.” If there’s time after a mission, a secret entrance leads the way to an accompanying full-service bar and restaurant called SafeHouse.
Spend a night or day at the museum like never before with Museum Hack. This intriguing option is for groups that want to dive into the culture of Chicago, with unconventional tours of the best museums in the city. Guides take you through spots like the Art Institute of Chicago, sharing the untold stories of the art and artists and giving insider information about the museum. There are also games and activities in the galleries, selfies with the artifacts and sometimes even wine. For group functions, Director of Marketing Michael Alexis says, “We have a wide range of services for meeting and event planners. Our core offering is team-building tours at the museums, but we also have storytelling workshops, leadership training, and can send one of our Renegade Guides to facilitate your activities.”
Keep your eye on the ball at pingpong emporium SPiN Chicago. Here, groups can test their competitive edge with 16,000 square feet of space for wining, dining and pingpong playing. The multifaceted venue in River North features a center court with stadium seating, 20 state-ofthe-art STIGA pingpong tables, two full bars and three semiprivate lounge areas. “Depending on what a group is looking for, we can offer the basics of just eating, drinking and playing pingpong, or we can remove all the tables, build a stage and have a band,” says Director of Sales Jena Cherry. “SPiN is all about creating unique experiences. The venue lends itself to connection and creativity so we like to have fun and think out of the box.” SPiN can also bring in professionally ranked pingpong pros that can help run tournaments and even give guests tips on how to improve their game. The venue has been a huge hit in Chicago, with events such as the NFL Draft Party and a Chicago Bulls charity event held here. The venue can accommodate groups from 10 to 600-plus people.
Nostalgia is on the agenda at Headquarters Beercade (also in River North) where craft beers, signature cocktails, delicious food and an incredible selection of vintage video games can all make for an entertaining group outing. Corporate Events Director Johnathon Paszkiet describes the venue as “a nostalgic escape into our youth” with gaming selections such as pinball, Pac-Man and Super Mario that will transport guests back to a simpler time—if only for a few hours. “We have a wonderful on-site event called our Totally Tubular ‘80s Trivia, perfect for groups of 30 to 75 guests,” says Paszkiet. “We’re also able to create gaming competitions and other activities for any party.”