Panel lauds proposed details for planned WhirlyBall site at mall
45,000-square-foot building to offer unique activities, bowling

By Dave Fidlin - Special to Conley News Service

July 11, 2018

The WhirlyBall restaurant and entertainment venue proposed for the south end of Brookfield Square will be 45,000 square feet with indoor seating accommodations for up to 663 persons and outdoor seating for up to 164 persons.
Submitted rendering

BROOKFIELD — Details of the new WhirlyBall restaurant and entertainment venue envisioned for the south end of Brookfield Square came into sharp focus Monday, and a city panel was overwhelmingly supportive of the plans submitted.

WhirlyBall is one of multiple new establishments planned for the former Sears department store building, which is in the final stages of being razed on the mall’s south end.

Adam Elias, vice president of strategic planning with WhirlyBall, and Andrew Koglin of OKW Architects combed through details of the establishment’s operations plans at Monday’s Plan Commission meeting.

Plans call for the construction of a 45,000-square-foot building with indoor seating accommodations for up to 663 persons and outdoor seating for up to 164 persons.

WhirlyBall, which until recently was concentrated in the Chicago metro area, features the namesake sport, which incorporates elements of basketball, lacrosse and hockey.

“It’s all rolled into one on bumper cars,” Elias said of the sport. “It’s two teams of five, and everyone travels at the same speed.”

WhirlyBall also will feature accommodations for 12 lanes of bowling and an area designated for laser tag. Rounding out the establishment’s offerings is a dining area and a full-fledged food and drink menu, which Elias said will be served throughout the facility.

WhirlyBall, which is making its first foray into Wisconsin at Brookfield Square, is setting up shop in an area brimming with other new developments, including the new hotel and conference center recently approved at the former Sears Auto site.

“We anticipate with the conference center going in across the street, this will be a great outlet for corporate groups looking to entertain,” Elias said.

Koglin said meticulous detail has gone into the proposed architecture, which includes a number of woodthemed accents and a variety of color schemes. Koglin in his pitch to commissioners described it as “a loft look.”

“The architecture is really an inside-out expression of the building,” Koglin said of the vision for the site.

Dan Ertl, director of community development, said WhirlyBall and other new establishments in the immediate area — which include the soon-to-relocate Outback Steakhouse, a Marcus BistroPlex and Mexican restaurant Uncle Julio’s — will have a unique, cohesive design.

During deliberations, three council members with seats on the Plan Commission offered robust compliments to Elias and Koglin for their forward-thinking vision for the site.

“This is truly exceptional, in terms of the architecture,” Alderman Rick Owen said. “I’m thrilled with seeing this kind of architecture coming to the mall.”

Alderman Gary Mahkorn described the state of the aging, obsolete Sears site as “appalling” before redevelopment efforts got underway.

“We’ve been wanting to see some changes to the south end of the mall,” Mahkorn said. “This is dramatic, and the architecture is superior. To me, this is a no-brainer. It’s nice to see this come to fruition.”

From an operational standpoint, Alderman Mark Nelson said he believes an establishment such as WhirlyBall will help usher Brookfield Square into a new era.

“I think this is going to become a true destination,” Nelson said. “I think people will come a great distance to use this.”

The commissioners’ recommendation in favor of WhirlyBall’s plans will go before the Common Council for a final, definitive vote later this month.

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