Home » Exploring Kentucky | Louisville offers a great assortment of creative team-building opportunities

Exploring Kentucky | Louisville offers a great assortment of creative team-building opportunities

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Owens Corning takes to the track at Bluegrass Indoor Karting in Louisville.
Owens Corning takes to the track at Bluegrass Indoor Karting in Louisville.

If you’re looking for a fun way to inspire your corporate staff, crew, girlfriends or family, check out Kentucky’s largest city. That amazing destination on the Ohio River – yes, Louisville – is packed with team-building options that are far from run-of-the-mill. These that follow are but a sampling of the dozens available.

Teams get to know Derby City on The Louisville Quest!, a challenge that leads participants through different sections of town, where they must answer questions and solve puzzles to keep moving ahead.

“It’s like a sightseeing tour with a twist,” co-owner Mary Henry explains. “You get to see some of Louisville’s historic sights but with interactive activities along the way. It’s a lot more fun than just sitting on a tour bus with someone narrating about each place.”

Henry and co-owner Theresa Hommrich formed a partnership in 2011 in search of a business without a great deal of startup investment. The Louisville Quest! idea filled that bill nicely, and for a year the entrepreneurs planned and tested. In 2012, partnering with Museum Row and Louisville Main Street, they began with a route that started on the Belle of Louisville paddle wheeler and wound through Museum Row and Louisville’s Historic District. That route is still a popular choice among the company’s other three current routes, which include a shopping district, a trendy area downtown and the Highlands. The latter uses a smartphone app.

Specific destinations are part of the mystery.

“Each location has different puzzles,” says Hommrich. “Team members bring different skill sets to the equation, so one member might be good with one particular type of puzzle at one place, while another might easily solve the puzzle at the next place.”

At the end of the quest, first, second and third placers get awards and bragging rights, with refreshments for all.

Teams of two to five can join the quest mid-April to mid-October. Groups of 10 or more can participate all year but need to reserve ahead. Check the website for ongoing special events.

Groups of 16 to 100 can embrace their inner Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel of a go-kart zipping around a 1,000-foot track at 25 to 40 mph at Bluegrass Indoor Karting (BIK). Talk about a get-your-crew-out-of-the-office teambuilding offering that’s pure excitement.

“Racing really gets the adrenalin going,” says Charli Knauer, the company’s business development manager, “more so than just a typical ‘let’s brainstorm over dinner’ outing. We run an endurance race that includes driver changes and team strategies, a lot of working together.”

Among its numerous packages, BIK’s most popular choice is its Grand Prix. Wannabe NASCAR drivers practice for eight minutes and then run eight-minute qualifiers. The top eight drivers then go head-to-head in an eight-minute final race. The top three finishers receive trophies, just like the big boys.

“The Grand Prix takes the most competitive people and gives them a third chance for overall champion,” Knauer adds, “while not wearing out the other participants in the initial two races.”

Covering all meeting and teambuilding bases, the company – open seven days a week – also hosts conferences and company events. A conference room can accommodate 10, a meeting room will hold up to 32, and a larger space can take 64 for a banquet. Its full-service catering offers all three meals and bar service.

You won’t find any food or your average team-building staples such as a white board or cheesy role-playing at the Louisville Escape Room. Instead, be prepared for a real-life adventure where each person has a part to play. Props, a guiding “room master” and after-game exercises are all supplied. A group of two to eight people just has to put its heads together, use observation skills, and figure out how to break out of a “locked” room within 60 minutes by cracking codes, solving riddles, piecing together puzzles and discovering clues.

“An escape room is fun, more active and mentally engaging than just another corporate retreat with silly games,” says Zack Trinkle, the business’s shift supervisor and corporate trainer. “Everyone is constantly involved with that working-together mentality. You’re not just waiting for someone else to relay to you, for instance. Every participant can be working on some aspect of the challenge all at the same time. Everyone gets to contribute something.”

Based on an “escape-the-room” video game created in Japan in 2005, the escape room concept has caught on quickly as a perfect team-building activity. Louisville Escape Room’s themed-room choices of varying difficulties include its most popular, Kidnapping, in which all participants begin handcuffed and blindfolded, and Museum Heist, a kind of Oceans 11, robbing-art-back theme (i.e. you’ve been hired by a museum to steal back stolen art).

While trying to figure out how to leave the room, a team is monitored and if no progress is observed, a room master slips them an extra clue or two. A note to claustrophobes – you’re not really locked in and can leave the room at any time you choose. But the fun, of course, is in figuring out the breakout yourself.

Entire rooms can be booked. Always be sure to book ahead.

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected].