Elk Grove businesses are going to Bahamas Bowl for work, and a little pinball

The idea behind Elk Grove Village's unconventional sponsorship of a college football bowl game in the Bahamas is to draw international attention to the businesses in town and try to attract new ones.

While the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl - which uses Elk Grove's business marketing tagline - is sure to be a welcome warm weather getaway for a contingent of locals going next week, they say it'll also be a working trip.

"I debriefed our team - we're not going down to lay on the beach," said Mike Brennan, chairman of Brennan Investment Group, developers of the $1 billion Elk Grove Technology Park on 85 acres of the former Busse Farm. "We're going down to showcase your park."

Beyond the Friday, Dec. 21, game itself - featuring Florida International and Toledo at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau - the island will host a series of events and dinners where Elk Grove Village officials and businesses plan to network and exchange business cards.

Brennan is bringing the tech park's construction project manager and three members of his company's in-house leasing team, which is working to secure tenants for the nine speculative facilities being built on 1.2 million square feet in Elk Grove.

"I want them to network with tenants from Elk Grove Village or others the mayor invited or other groups we may run across when we're there," Brennan said.

Another prominent Elk Grove business sending representatives is Stern Pinball, the gamemaker that's been featured in Elk Grove's Makers Wanted TV commercials. Zach Sharpe, the company's director of marketing and a pinball wizard in his own right, will fly down early next week with a co-worker to set up four pinball machines at a welcoming dinner Monday, Dec. 17.

There, Stern employees will host an eight-person pinball tournament where Florida International and Toledo players and coaches will square off.

Each school will get a machine to take back to campus, though the winning school will get first pick - either "Deadpool" or "Guardians of the Galaxy," Sharpe said.

Tom Walter, co-owner and chief culture officer at Tasty Catering, will attend the game and festivities with his wife. A supporter of the village's $300,000 sponsorship of the game, Walter sees it as a way to keep the sprawling Elk Grove industrial park at nearly full capacity. In addition to the catering business, Walter and his family own and rent out other properties within the business district.

He says he's looking forward to talking to other business owners during Bahamas Bowl events next week about what the business park has to offer.

"I think it's time to market in a different arena. It's wonderful to see this happening," Walter said. "It will be lauded as stupid or ignorant by some, but on the other hand, it could be cutting-edge brilliant."

Village officials who plan to attend the game include Mayor Craig Johnson, along with his wife; Village Attorney George Knickerbocker; and Finance Director Christine Tromp.

Johnson said he and the other village officials are paying their own way and using their allotted vacation time.

  The banner on the side of Elk Grove Village's village hall promotes the bowl game the village is spending $300,000 to sponsor. Brian Hill/
Mike Brennan, chairman of the Brennan Investment Group, is bringing a contingent of employees to the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. His firm is developing the $1 billion Elk Grove Technology Park on the former Busse Farm. Daily Herald File Photo, July 2018
Tom Walter
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