Baseball, Axe Throwing and Whale Watching

In the lead up and cool down from a hectic event, maintaining a solid team connection is vital. Meeting planners who seek to maintain the morale of their team may research local team-building activities to boost the energy and mood of their group.

To explore the team-building activity experience, Smart Meetings spoke with Jason Borchik, vice president of business development, and Colby Smith, director of operations and general manager of Home Run Dugout, based in Katy, Texas. We also chatted with Vanessa Agee, communications director of Frisco, Colorado, and Heather Johnson, executive director of Visit Dana Point.

Home Runs in Katy, Texas

For planners who find themselves near Katy, Texas, may want to check out Home Run Dugout. There, planners will be able to check out the ground up pitching machine, invented by Home Run Dugout founders Nick Hermandorfer and Tyler Bambrick.

“The ball pops out of the ground right in front of home plate, and it just kind of tossed up in the air and it floats there. You take a big swing and hit it into this 20-foot curved screen,” said Borchik. “This is like a big movie theater-style screen. On the screen, we have a simulation of every major league baseball stadium. You can play like it’s whatever ballpark you want.”

The venue includes 12 batting bays, a full-service restaurant and bar as well as a beer garden. The total layout of the venue is 46,000 sq. ft.

Home Run Dugout

“It’s giving everyone the opportunity to step up to the plate and feel like they’re like the star of the show. They’re stepping up to bat at Yankee Stadium,” said Borchik.

Even if the people on your team have never swung a baseball bat in their life, they will still be able to participate. “Groups sometimes come in with the preconceived notion that like, Okay, I’m not a baseball person. I’m not interested in swinging a bat. I’ve never swung a bat before. The way that we have it set up with the easy-to-hit soft toss, with the simulated screen we can manipulate it to make your ball go farther,” said Smith. “We see people here who are like 80-years-old to four-year-olds. I think that’s part of what makes it so fun is not necessarily that like it caters to people who are good at baseball,” said Smith.

Competition can also bring people together. “You’re trying to beat your co-workers you’re trying to get your section to say it’s sales versus marketing,” Smith continued, adding, “You can create competitions within the game, that way you aren’t just trying to win but you’re cheering on your coworkers.”

The space isn’t just limited to sports and team building, according to Borchik the 15 foot-high and 20 foot-wide HD projectors have been used by businesses who have used the venue to do their quarterly planning meetings and corporate training.

Treasure Hunting at Dana Point

If your next event is in SoCal near Dana Point, planners may want to take the opportunity to take your group out to try and spot some whales. Or, if your team is seeking a little more physical teams can elect to try kayaking or surfing.

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“A lot of people will fly in and go to their conference, and maybe walk the grounds of where they’re staying.  If you come to a place like Dana Point and you want to see the beach, and you want to know about the first American world whale heritage site,” said Heather Johnson, Executive Director of Visit Dana Point.

Visit Dana Point

If planners are seeking a more interactive activity, kayaking in the harbor is a fun option. Groups can do a treasure hunt where they have a list of things they need to take pictures of as they go. “That’s such a fun way to break the ice because even if you’re not a professional kayaker, it’s a very simple thing to do, but it’s also kind of intimidating,” said Johnson. “Everyone’s on an even playing field and a little unsteady at first and not really sure what they’re doing. You’re going past all sorts of different yachts and boats and there’s a lot of times sea lions will be swimming with you.”

Axe Throwing in Frisco, Colorado

For meeting planners hosting smaller retreats in Frisco, Colorado, looking for team-building activities offers a wide variety of excursions.

Thrashin’ Axes allows participants of all ages to partake in the fine art of axe throwing. Groups typically get a 10-minute lesson on how to axe throw prior to the main event. During the training, there are four different positions for throwing. Participants throw the axes at a wall within an enclosed cage area. There is also a selection of different types of axes that are easier and harder to throw depending on the desired difficulty.

Thrashin’ Axes

For culinary fans, Colorado Mountain College offers a full teaching kitchen. Agee offered thoughts on her experience. “I had to make French Fries and use a fryer. Everybody else did a different part of the meal. Then, you all sit together at a long table, and you have the meal together and it’s in fact a cool team building experience,” Agee said. “Team building should be something that doesn’t scare people, and that makes them feel like it’s something that they’re going to have fun doing. I don’t think it’s great to be very uncomfortable when you’re about to do something. This feels like the stuff that’s supposed to bring you closer together.”