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March 6, 2024

Naperville Sun | WhirlyBall adds the fun to group gatherings and team-building sessions

Naperville Sun | WhirlyBall adds the fun to group gatherings and team-building sessions

Business: WhirlyBall

Address: 3103 Odyssey Court, Naperville

Phone/website: 630-932-4800,

CEO: Adam Elias, 35, of Chicago

Years in business: 4 in Naperville, 30 total

What does your business do? “We have a business that thrives off mass gatherings and bringing people together, whether it be a birthday party, corporate outing, a wedding. We pride ourselves on creating memorable events. That’s the cornerstone of what we do,” Elias said.

What do you offer? “We have 12 lanes of bowling, two WhirlyBall courts and a multilevel laser tag arena as well as our private event spaces and The Pivot Room, our bar and restaurant.”

How do you play WhirlyBall? “You ride in what we call WhirlyBugs, essentially bumper cars. Very agile. You hold what looks like a lacrosse scoop. The goal is to pass a 12-inch Whiffle ball to your teammates. There’s a red team and a black team. …You shoot at a basketball backboard. There’s a hole in the middle. Shoot the middle, you get two points. From half court, three points. Games are 10 minutes. You rent the court by the hour. It’s a spectator sport as much as a participant sport.”

How did you get into this business? “I’ve been with the company most of my life. My family started WhirlyBall back in 1993 in Lombard. My father, Sam Elias, started it. We just finished our 30th year in business. It’s been very special.”

How long have you been in Naperville? “We opened this location in November 2019. Talk about timing.”

How did you navigate the pandemic? “I took the company through a very turbulent time. … There were the challenges of the closures.  How to partner with our team members. … We were shut down twice in 2020. … We had to ask people to take a pause, which was hard. And we had to make sure there was a business on the other end for people to return.”

How long have you been CEO? “I stepped into the role about three and a half years ago, in September of 2020. Unfortunately, my dad passed away. I had been working in lockstep with him for about seven years. Then I stepped in to lead.”

What sets WhirlyBall apart? “WhirlyBall is the only mechanized team sport I know of on the planet. … You don’t have to be an athlete to play. A lot of people have this notion that you have to have good hand-eye coordination or be really skilled. You don’t have to be. You’re all going to learn together.”

Your dad created WhirlyBall? “He’s the one who brought it to Chicago. We were living in South Florida. My mom, the story goes, threw my dad a surprise 30th birthday party at a place called WhirlyBall. … It was just one court and bleachers. … He said it was unique. … He visited sites in Atlanta, Michigan. He said, ‘If they can do this in Michigan, I’m going to Chicago. People need something to do inside because so many months have horrid weather.’”

What did you learn from your father? “How to be resourceful. If you have a problem to solve, what do you have in your ability to troubleshoot and solve the problem?”

Where are your other locations? “Chicago, Vernon Hills, Brookfield, Wisconsin and Colorado Springs, Colorado.”

Any favorite stories? “That moment when we called everybody back (to work after the pandemic) was probably my favorite moment. It was extremely hard to say to folks we care about that we can’t offer hours now because there’s no business to be had. My work family.

“The silver lining for us is companies look at WhirlyBall and say, ‘We can bring our team together in a space they’ll be excited about.’ … They can have breakfast, lunch, have meetings and have some fun after.”

Any future plans? “To expand the concept and grow into new markets.”

When are you busy? “There’s not a lull.”

What’s the price? “To rent a court, it’s $250 per hour. Ten people can play at one time. We recommend up to 20 or 30 people per (rented court).”

What about competition? “If you have a unique concept with quality food and beverage paired with superior guest service, you’ll be part of the market share.”

Is Naperville good for business? “Yes. A great location for us. … It was only right we moved to Naperville. When the lease in Lombard came to an end, we wanted to add bowling. We needed to move.”

What’s your advice for someone starting a business? “Do your homework. … Maybe meet with people in that kind of business. There are going to be more expenses than you think, so plan accordingly.”

Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun. If you know of a business you’d like to see to profiled in Down to Business, contact him at


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