Naperville approves WhirlyBall facility despite parking concerns

 
 
Posted8/22/2018 5:30 AM
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  • WhirlyBall plans a new game center with two WhirlyBall courts, 12 bowling lanes, laser tag and a restaurant with an outdoor patio near Topgolf in an area that's fast becoming an entertainment destination in Naperville. The city council approved the facility Tuesday night.

    WhirlyBall plans a new game center with two WhirlyBall courts, 12 bowling lanes, laser tag and a restaurant with an outdoor patio near Topgolf in an area that's fast becoming an entertainment destination in Naperville. The city council approved the facility Tuesday night. Courtesy of WhirlyBall

  • WhirlyBall plans to open next spring in Naperville with two game courts, 12 bowling lanes, laser tag, private event spaces and a restaurant with an outdoor patio at 3103 Odyssey Court.

    WhirlyBall plans to open next spring in Naperville with two game courts, 12 bowling lanes, laser tag, private event spaces and a restaurant with an outdoor patio at 3103 Odyssey Court. Courtesy of WhirlyBall

The biggest worry Naperville City Council members had about a WhirlyBall game center coming to the northwest side of town is how busy and popular the place will be.

Council members expressed some concerns about a parking variance that will allow the facility to offer 150 spaces instead of the number the zoning code would have required -- 177.

With two "no" votes on the parking issue from council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski and Mayor Steve Chirico, but with unanimous support on the rest of the plan for the site, council members gave WhirlyBall the green light to build at 3103 Odyssey Court.

Adam Elias, vice president of strategic planning for WhirlyBall, said the company is planning a 41,000-square-foot building with 12 bowling lanes, laser tag, private event spaces, a restaurant with an outdoor patio and two game courts for WhirlyBall itself.

Elias has described the sport as a combination of lacrosse, basketball, hockey and bumper cars; in other words, "the most fun you can have going 4 mph."

The facility represents an expansion of the business that has operated in Lombard for 25 years, has sites in Vernon Hills and Chicago, and has grown to Colorado Springs. WhirlyBall targets a spring 2019 opening for the Naperville site, which will be right next to the popular golf entertainment venue Topgolf.

Topgolf, at 3211 Odyssey Court, wasn't given a variance on the number of parking spots it was required to provide when the facility opened in 2015, bringing "bowling meets darts meets golf" to the city. Council members on Tuesday said Topgolf is often so busy, customers must park on the street. Boyd-Obarski said she expects the case could be the same for WhirlyBall.

"I just think we're going to have parking congestion and I'd like to see us appropriately parked from the start," she said. "This is all good, but I think we need to plan for the abundance of people that want to come and enjoy it."

Elias said WhirlyBall engaged a consultant to conduct a parking study of its Lombard game center at 800 E. Roosevelt Road. The study found customers often come in groups of four or five in one vehicle for birthday parties, or 20 or more in a bus for corporate events. Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft also are popular options among WhirlyBall customers that decrease the need for cars to stay on site, he said.

The study determined the Naperville site, with its added features of bowling, laser tag and a restaurant, would require 140 parking spaces, an amount the site's design was able to exceed by ten.

Allison Laff, deputy director of transportation, engineering and development, said the ordinance approved to allow WhirlyBall contains a provision that requires the company to find a way to address parking overflow on its property, such as by admitting fewer customers during peak times. She said that provision, coupled with the parking study the company conducted, provided a "comfort level" with the 150 parking spaces instead of 177.

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