You never know when you’re going to have an aha moment. Salt Lake City mechanic and tinkerer Stan Mangum had his in 1962 while watching his son driving a golf cart and whacking a can around with a stick. While a less enlightened man might have thought nothing of this spectacle, Stan envisioned a sport to surpass any other that had invented before — WhirlyBall, a sort of mechanized polo with shades of jai alai, lacrosse, and basketball thrown in for good measure.
Minnesota’s own Nick Lambrecht had his own epiphany courtesy of WhirlyBall. It was during his third time playing the unconventional sport in Chicago that he realized he must quit his job as a corporate lawyer and open up his own arena. This at the very least evinces that WhirlyBall is more fun than practicing corporate law, but that really doesn’t do it justice.
“The bottom line with WhirlyBall,” Nick explained, “Is that it’s so much fun. When you’re out there zipping around on the arena, steering your car while at the same time trying to score a point for your team, it’s just impossible to have a frown on your face. Nearly no one has played it before, either, at least not enough to get good at it. That means when you play WhirlyBall, it’s always on a level playing field — no one can dominate like they would if they went bowling or golfing, and physical strength and speed are irrelevant.”
When you play WhirlyBall, you’re issued your own little electric bumper car which you steer with a crank. In a feat of pure engineering genius, the cart has no brakes — you’ve the option to either decelerate to a graceful stop, or careen into a wall or another player for a similar albeit it more jarring and satisfying result. You also receive a scoop for passing, catching, and shooting the grapefruit-sized wiffle ball toward a backboard at either end of the 80 foot arena. Teams can be as great as five, but may be smaller.
Its terms beg an important question about WhirlyBall: Just how safe is the absurd sport? “Very,” answered Nick. “The floor is electrified to power the cars, but its voltage is so low that you could sleep on it. Seatbelts are mandatory for play, and the ball is virtually weightless. So long as you use the scoop to go for the ball, you’re never at risk of touching another player’s car, too. All things considered, WhirlyBall is one of the safer sports out there.”
Given its group participation, WhirlyBall is the perfect central activity for a big party. WhirlyBall Twin Cities’ headquarters in Maple Grove are perfectly set up for this, because in addition to two arenas for manic motorized hockey the giant place has a 4,000 square foot laser tag arena, escape rooms, pool tables, darts, and increasingly rare arcade machines. They’ve a full restaurant and bar with 17 beers on tap as well, because true competitive sports demand beer. They can accommodate over 400 people there, so if you’re after the El Dorado of party spots, WhirlyBall Twin Cities is an exceptional bet.
WhirlyBall Twin Cities is located at 13644 80th Cir N in Maple Grove, and their second location which will feature three arenas as well as eight bowling lanes is coming to Bloomington this spring. Learn more about it at whirlyballtwincities.com.
By David Scheller