• Kristin Zeller

Team Building & Retreats

The summer is over and it’s time to get back to business. But the start of autumn doesn’t mean that the fun has to stop. To keep employees active and engaged throughout the year, planners might look to schedule a fall team building outing for their group.

Here are a few opportunities available in the Mid-Atlantic Region when it comes to arranging a fun and valuable team building session.

At Main Event Entertainment, their tag line of “Eat. Bowl. Play.” sums up what they do best, but not nearly all that they can do! Amanda Jones, sales manager for Main Event Entertainment, talks about all the many offerings they are able to provide.

“We are a 52,000-square foot family entertainment center featuring bowling, billiards, laser tag, and over 120 arcade games,” says Jones. “We host more than just birthday parties. We host happy hours, holiday parties, employee or customer appreciation events, meetings, retreats, and more.”

With locations all over the United States, including Newark, DE and Columbia, MD regionally, there are endless options available for hosting a fun-filled group event. For team building, specifically, Main Event provides two great packages: The Lightning Strike and The Power Play.

“The Lightning Strike includes one game of bowling, one game of strike force laser tag, and a Fire & Ice Round,” explains Jones. “The Fire & Ice round is where the group is split into teams and compete to get the highest points in basketball and skee-ball.”

“The Power Play includes one game of bowling, one game of strike force laser tag, a bowling pin trophy to take back to the office, and the Power Point Challenge,” she continues. “The Power Point Challenge is where the group is split into teams and they compete for the highest points in the arcade. A facilitator is dedicated to the group to encourage and guide the guests from activity to activity.”

Jones adds that they also are experienced in accommodating specific team building needs. “We offer several corporate packages and a VIP bowling section for our corporate clients. Main Event Columbia has a private room that seats up to 50 guests and is an ideal place for a meeting before having some fun.”

Jones feels that at Main Event, what makes their team building options such a hit for group functions is that their facilitator is a great asset to the team building experience, which is not often included at other group event locations. “They work to engage the entire group by coaching and playing with the individuals. We also work to mold the team building activities to the needs of your business.”

For those seeking a team bonding experience while being one with nature and animals, they need look no further than the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, PA.

“Elmwood Park Zoo is a 94-year-old non-profit organization and destination for families and animal lovers in the Greater Philadelphia region,” says Shaun Rogers, marketing director for the venue. “Our mission is to foster an appreciation for wildlife and an environment that will inspire people to become active in their own conservation efforts.”

This beautiful setting is perfect for team building, and Rogers discusses some of the unique options they can offer. “At 16-acres, we're the area's largest corporate retreat destination; large groups definitely appreciate the ability to roam throughout the whole zoo. We have multiple indoor and outdoor venues available to host any size gathering. We have highly unique animal interactions - giraffe feedings and bison feedings, animal shows, meet and greets - that truly set us apart. Our Treetop Adventures zip lines and challenge games park is the perfect venue in which to host groups looking for fun and challenging team building activities.”

Elmwood Park Zoo offers the unique opportunity to mix fun with nature. “No other venue can offer the animal interactions combined with the zip line team building like ours,” notes Rogers. “And as an added benefit, groups that come to the zoo get the satisfaction that they are supporting a great cause and furthering the mission of one of the area's leading non-profits.”

Rogers adds that their event planning team is constantly creating unique packages and experiences for groups, plus they can often accommodate unique requests. “Interested parties should definitely contact us so that we can help them plan their ideal event.”

In the Northern Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, groups will find the beautiful Woodloch Resort, a vacation and meetings destination comprised of three distinct properties. “For over 60 years, Woodloch has been bringing families, friends and coworkers together to strengthen bonds, recharge their spirit and help them relax,” says Rory O'Fee, director of marketing for Woodloch Resort.

“Family owned and operated with a special brand of warm hospitality since 1958, anyone who comes to Woodloch is treated like a member of their family,” O’Fee continues. “Woodloch is an ideal destination for off-site meetings. Located just 90-miles from New York City, so close to home, yet a world away. Woodloch’s unique meeting experience offers a variety of activities, all customizable to fit your company’s interests, strengths and weaknesses.”

Woodloch’s properties each offers a different experience for visiting guests. “Woodloch Pines Resort offers a grand menu of activities, games, amenities and entertainment focused on enhancing communication, fostering comradery and creating lasting memories,” says O’Fee. “The Lodge at Woodloch, acclaimed as Travel + Leisure’s #7 destination spa in the world, and Conde Nast Traveler’s Worlds-Best Destination, TripAdvisor’s #17 Hotel in the World, among others, allows you to connect through creative, stress-relieving outlets, and then leave feeling rejuvenated and re-energized. Finally, our Woodloch Springs Community is home to a semi-private, championship-style golf course and offers spacious, beautifully appointed guest homes along with upscale dining and personal fitness.”

When it comes to an ideal retreat location, Woodloch’s natural beauty is remarkable. “Layers of snow in winter change to bright colorful blossoms and warmth as spring envelops summer, then the brilliance of autumn’s turn makes the resort a quintessential ‘four-season’ destination,” notes O’Fee. “Aside from the bucolic surroundings, Woodloch also offers more than 60 different team building activities that are completely customizable to fit any company’s needs or wants.”

“One of the most popular activities is the Boat Build competition,” O’Fee continues. “Groups of 10-12 people are supplied with one 4’ x 8’ sheet of cardboard, a marker, box cutter, bed sheets, dowel rods and duct tape. The strict 30-minute time limit forces the group to work efficiently to create a boat that will indeed float. Once time is up, one member from each group will sit inside the vessel and sail it across our pool. Whichever team successfully sails the quickest, walks away with Woodloch gold medals.”

With all of these options for team building, O’Fee is quick to add that all of Woodloch’s programs are customizable. “Most of the activities are mainly focused on communicating and working together. One of the more popular games is an in-depth scavenger hunt. With an hour in which to work, players have to run around the 165-resort property in order to find clues, objects and - in some cases - people! Others can stay back work on the many puzzles that are part of this activity, as well.”

Groups also gravitate toward the property’s Bakery Wars event. Starting with a tray of baked goods (such as a cake, muffins, cupcakes, brownies, donuts, etc.), a topic, and a time limit, each group will build a display fitting into a given topic. Icing, toppings, plastic ware and more are available for use by the participants.

In addition to these activities, private paintball, escape rooms, zip-lining, archery, the famous Woodloch Olympics, brain teaser games, trivia matches, and many others are available from which to choose.

O’Fee notes that Woodloch excels at making sure each client’s needs are met. “Personalized one-on-one service is a common talking point in the meetings world, but at Woodloch it goes several layers deep.”

“When a group books with Woodloch, the sales team and corporate services manager look at the event like an unshapen piece of clay, then with each detail given, the sculpture of an event comes to life,” he continues. “From a custom winter carnival and an all-out block party in a Woodloch Springs cul-de-sac with a live band and BBQ pit to a dark-dining experience and forest-bathing excursion, Woodloch has many options, and for that which hasn’t been done, we’re always up to make it happen.”

O’Fee also adds that autumn at Woodloch is one of the most satisfying times to visit. “Being able to take in the natural beauty surrounding the properties makes the getaway that much better. For the fall of 2018, Woodloch’s Halloween packages are a big hit. In addition to the regularly scheduled activities and anything customizable, the Haunted Hayrides are a real scare. These rides are a 30-minute adventure through the modified - or shall we say ‘possessed’ - nature trail, which has been converted to over a dozen scary set designs.”

“What makes it stand out, too, are the Woodloch cast members dressed and made up as if on a movie set, equipped with special props, and who enthusiastically try to scare participants. Private hayrides can be arranged for any group, and when enhanced with a spooky scavenger hunt, a custom bar with creepy cocktails, or even a resort-wide trick-or-treat and costume party, there’s limitless possibilities,” he exclaims.

If a group is looking for something that’s more sports-oriented, planners can turn to Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Our facility itself can be found in the Philadelphia Sports Complex located in South Philadelphia,” says Francesca Fadgen, special events representative for the Phillies. “We have numerous event spaces, which include the Hall of Fame Club, Diamond Club, Media Room, and the newly opened The Yard. Each space has unique elements of Phillies’ baseball. Our memorabilia and decor allow the spaces to speak for themselves. Each space is unique, but the ballpark as an event venue is unique in comparison to other venues in the city.”

In terms of The Yard, this new and exciting outdoor space is perfect for a group function, as Fadgen explains. “During games, it serves as a fun place for kids to play; however, this space is truly fun for all ages. The Yard is stocked with different activities such as a climbing wall, hot dog launcher, bullpen, and a Wiffle Ball field. This space offers a genuine baseball experience and can be tailored to meet the needs of any event group.”

Fadgen goes on to explain why the Yard is a great choice for team building, “The Wiffle Ball field allows for full games, which allows for healthy competition between friends and colleagues. Wiffle Ball in itself can be nostalgic, and having the opportunity to play with others brings out those joyous, youthful feelings. Working with friends and/or colleagues to make plays and compete is inevitable in this game, and it is perfect for team building.”

“Even if you are not a sports fanatic, The Yard still has plenty to offer,” Fadgen adds. “Cheer on your coworkers as they attempt to scale the side of City Hall as part of our climbing wall. The climbing wall is yet another area of The Yard that promotes encouragement, teamwork, and positive reinforcement.”

Fadgen further notes that The Yard is an outdoor location unlike most typical group meeting spaces. “The ballpark itself has an atmosphere that exudes positive energy. Planners, your guests will not be disappointed! All work and no play isn't fun for anyone. At a space like The Yard, guests can enjoy a more relaxed setting. The Yard is unlike any other space in our ballpark, let alone Philadelphia. It is customizable with regard to the attractions available and allows guests to have an authentic baseball experience.”

Another fun and exciting recreational opportunity is the ping pong haven known as SPiN Philadelphia. “We offer something a little different from your typical event,” notes Ashley Orfus of Alab Group, a marketing and public relations consulting firm that represents SPiN. “Ping-pong is a great icebreaker, conversation starter and social activator. It adds a layer of comfort and engagement beyond traditional events.”

Orfus feels that SPiN is a truly unique option for a team building event because it offers an iconic ping pong culture, lifestyle and movement, which has redefined the game to know no boundaries. “It’s a sport that connects people regardless of age, gender or background. It’s is about having fun, not taking life too seriously, making connections and embracing contradictions.”

Hot off of the Philadelphia Eagles first Super Bowl win, Orfus notes that they will be promoting a SPiN “Philly Special” for groups on Mondays and Tuesday during games. “We are a 12,000-square foot ping pong social club... in Center City Philadelphia with capacities to accommodate groups of 10 guests per court up to full venue buyouts of 400-plus guests. We offer unique experiences such as ping pong pros to lead tournaments, farm-to-table food options that make it easy to interact and eat while playing, as well as craft cocktails, beer and wine packages."

Another option for team building is to take the group to the South Jersey Shore. After all, just because the summer is over doesn’t mean that a group can’t still enjoy the region’s beaches! Consider an off-season excursion to The Wildwoods, where Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA) offers planners information about the area.

“In The Wildwoods, you can do as much or as little as you like,” says Rose. “Enjoy five-miles of free white-sand beaches and 38 blocks of boardwalk fun with three action-packed amusement piers featuring over 100 rides and attractions, three beachfront waterparks, shopping, carnival games and arcades, plus great dining and nightlife.”

Recently named “The #1 Destination on the Rise in the U.S.” by TripAdvisor and voted “Best Beaches in New Jersey” by USAToday, The Wildwoods deliver one-of-a-kind value for family vacations along the South Jersey Shore. With over 180 events and festivals throughout the year and lots of fun things to do, there’s something for everyone in The Wildwoods.

And for groups needing to include meetings into their play time, the Wildwoods Convention Center is truly a one-of-a-kind year-round multi-purpose facility that’s ideal for meetings, concerts, public shows and of course, conventions.

“Situated directly on the world-famous Wildwoods boardwalk and built directly on the beach, the convention center features unparalleled ocean views from all angles,” says Rose. “At the back of the center, a windowed floor-to-ceiling wall opens to a stunning 6,600-square foot outside deck overlooking the beach. Along the east and south side of the exhibit hall, dramatically large windows present amazing beach and ocean vistas. For those in the mood for a stroll between gatherings, a beach extension connects guests right to the water’s edge.”

The Wildwoods Convention Center provides event catering, food service and concession needs, as well as décor and theme consultation. Whether it’s an event requiring four-star cuisine, a black-tie charity gala, or simply a fun food affair, Delaware North Companies, the center’s exclusive catering service group, is able to exceed the demands of even the most discriminating tastes. The convention center’s professional staff also is on hand to offer a host of helpful aids for guests, such as housing assistance, welcome packages, mailings and bid presentations.

From baseball to beachballs, ping pong to strikes and spares, or animal feedings to mountain retreats, opportunities abound this fall to bring together groups in a variety of fun settings. Varied activities and experiences at each of these destinations provide a fascinating cross-section of offerings available throughout the region.

With so many groups looking for unique settings that offer new experiences, these and other destinations throughout the Mid-Atlantic will have attendees raving and planners excited to explore so many new and exciting possibilities.

Kristin Zeller is a freelance writer and works in the Special Events Office for the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

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