In the fall of 2014, WhirlyBall plans to relocate from 1880 W. Fullerton Ave. to a newly constructed two-story entertainment complex at 1823-1855 W. Webster Ave. in Bucktown, just west of Elston Avenue and visible from the Kennedy expressway.
In June, WhirlyBall owner Sam Elias bought a 58,500-square-foot land parcel for $3.5 million and will be constructing a two-story 50,000-square-foot complex on the site, which formerly housed a manufacturing building that was demolished about a year ago, broker Jonathan Berger said.
Berger's boutique commercial real estate firm, Equitable Group, has owned the land for three years and sold it to Elias for $3.5 million on June 20, Berger said.
Berger said he considers the location facing the Kennedy Expressway to be "situated squarely between Bucktown and Wicker Park."
Elias said that the new location is "gonna be awesome."
With a current occupancy of "around 3 or 400," Elias said the new building will be 20,000 square feet larger than its existing quarters as well as double the occupancy, with space for up to 760 patrons.
Elias said the new location will have three WhirlyBall courts, Laser Tag and a restaurant as it does now.
For those who aren't interested in whizzing around in a bumper car (or who aren't permitted) the new WhirlyBall will offer bowling lanes too.
"We're adding bowling to increase our offerings so people will have more choices. There are a few people that can't or don't want to play Whirlyball and some that may want to do both," Elias said.
The owner of three other WhirlyBall franchise locations in the Chicago area, Elias plans to build 10 other WhirlyBalls in states like Indiana and New York, according to Crain's Chicago Business.
Elias said about two thirds of Whirlyball's business comes from corporate events and private parties such as showers and end of season ski clubs.
"Even in the worst of times we were doing okay, especially now that more corporations are moving from the suburbs to the city," Elias said.
Elias said the new building, which he's "investing 7 or $8 million in," is still in the design and permitting phase, but he hopes construction can begin in December, with an opening in fall of 2014.
And though he does not yet know when the city will begin construction on the Damen, Elston, Fullerton intersection, he said he "hopes that there won't be much, if any time" between when the old WhirlyBall location closes and the new one opens.
As part of a plan to reconfigure the Damen, Elston and Fullerton intersection, the $36.3 million project will reroute Elston Avenue and cause several buildings to be knocked down.
In May, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) mentioned that WhirlyBall was relocating due to the makeover of the intersection.
"Ald. Scott Waguespack was very helpful in trying to get us a new spot," Elias said, adding that he's still "sad to be leaving after 17 years."
"We don't want to move but it will be better for everyone once the intersection gets straightened out. We will have a nice new location, visible from highway, with a nice sign, whatever the city code allows us to do," Elias said.