Whirlyball facilities offer indoor fun

The cooler climes of winter leave many metro Atlantans ditching their outdoor recreational routines for warmer indoor options. But just because you’re not warming up to the idea of a chilly morning jog or hitting a frosty softball field doesn’t mean your only options are lounging by the TV set.

Even though it maintains an under-the-radar following, there’s an indoor recreational activity in Roswell that you might want to give a whirl. The sport is called whirlyball. It involves two teams in lacrosse-like game where the object is working a wiffle ball down a court using plastic scoops and score in the opposing team’s goal, a nine-foot high backboard with a hole in the middle. Oh, and the game is played in special bumper cars known by avid whirlyballers as “whirlybugs.”

While the idea of a sport involving bumper cars might sound foreign to many, WhirlyBall Atlanta has been thriving in a Roswell shopping center for almost 15 years. The game has been in existence in some form since the 1960s. And while there may have been some confusion over whirlyball’s status in recent months with the closing of StarTime Entertainment, a multifaceted entertainment facility that included a movie theater, restaurant and other attractions within the same shopping center, the WhirlyBall Atlanta facility is still bumping along just fine.

“We were the first business in this shopping center when it was renovated and we’ve been here the entire time,” says WhirlyBall owner Darryl Baker. “Then StarTime Entertainment came in and had the full reign of the rest of the shopping center and other businesses moved in. StarTime changed ownership three times, then recently went bankrupt, but we’ve always been independently owned.”

Even Baker admits that, “When you first see whirlyball, it looks kind of funny.” But when you see it played by those who take the game a little more seriously, he says the game can become a unique team-building exercise, especially for corporate groups, which make up a majority of his business. WhirlyBall Atlanta has also become a post-show destination for such popular rock acts as Muse, Arcade Fire and Death Cab for Cutie. Some smaller acts even perform there instead of at traditional music venues.

With only a handful of competitive whirlyball leagues across the country, the Roswell location is a true score for local whirleyball competitors. (Monday nights are reserved for league play).

“I like this sport over other sports because, for one, you’re playing in a bumper car and that’s always a lot of fun,” says Timmy Knight, who is a massage student and father of two by day and league coordinator by night. “You have to be able to drive, catch and shoot without running into somebody and hurting yourself. There’s a lot of hand-eye coordination involved.”

Knight is one of five local players who have represented the Roswell league in the whirlyball national tournament the past two years.

With a small arcade, pingpong table and fully-stocked bar, WhirlyBall Atlanta offers a festive atmosphere for groups, families and coworkers. But be warned. Once you get past the initial silliness of it all, you might just find yourself showing up on a regular basis, even during warmer seasons.

WhileyBall Atlanta

Reservations required. $190 an hour, minimum of 10 people. WhirlyBall Atlanta, 608 Holcomb Bridge Road, Norcross, Ga. 30075. 770-998-6161, www.whirlyballatl.com.

Other locations

Though WhirlyBall Atlanta is the most established facility of its kind in the area, it’s not the only place for whirlwind good times. Jimmy’s Mad Mad Whirled in Marietta appeals more to families and children and is the only place in the Atlanta area that offers both whirlyball and laser tag under the same roof.

Mad Mad Whirled opened in 2006 in a former movie theater and some rooms are still available for video game parties, presentations and other events. It also features an arcade and midway games. But the main attraction is the two whirlyball courts where adults and children (no younger than 10 years and no shorter than 4 feet) can play. Mad Mad Whirled also offers party room rentals and concessions such as pizza, wings, hot dogs and a bar.

11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays. Rates vary. Jimmy’s Mad Mad Whirled, 2854 Delk Road, Marietta, Ga. 30067. 770-953-4040, www.funzoneatlanta.com.