Downtown Milwaukee golfers who in the past had resigned themselves to rusty swings in the spring can now get some convenient indoor practice over the long winter.
Fore! Milwaukee, an indoor driving range and instruction facility, recently opened at 252 E. Menomonee St. in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.
Owner Tim Grogan has been a PGA professional for 17 years and coached the Marquette University men's golf team from 1992 to 2010.
He wanted to provide a convenient practice site for downtown and Third Ward residents, and he also hopes to attract groups from nearby offices such as Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Inc.
"That was part of our business plan was to reach out to some of those different companies that are downtown and have a small corporate event," Grogan said. "It's close, and it's cheaper than doing a golf event at a golf course, and we're hoping there's a market out there for that."
Fore! has nine hitting bays and can accommodate groups of up to 50, but 12 to 15 people is easiest. With a smaller group, everyone could receive video instruction on their swings with a golf simulator program that Grogan plans to use.
The 6,000-square-foot facility has a 20-foot ceiling and each hitting bay has a synthetic "baffler" tarp backed by a netting cage.
"That is such a strong material, it's a synthetic material, that it stops guys that hit it 300 yards," he said.
There is also a free putting green and a bar and seating area. Catering is available from several Third Ward restaurants, including Ryan Braun's Graffito.
"We would like to do a couple (corporate events) a week," Grogan said. "Friday and Saturday we're seeing kind of a younger crowd after 7. Mid-week, we'd like to fill those dates up with corporate golf."
SPiN Milwaukee is another Third Ward venue that attracts businesses looking for a unique corporate event space.
The 17-table ping pong bar, which opened in 2010, has been wildly popular for corporate events, said co-owner Scott Mayer.
"I think it's word of mouth," he said. "We work really hard and do a really good job for the corporate deal."
SPiN has wi-fi and video conferencing capabilities, which offers space to conduct meetings and then have some fun. The SPiN chef also makes dishes that are more creative than average bar fare, Mayer said.
"What we bring to the table is different from a traditional bar or restaurant – it's something physical you can do," he said. "It takes support of each other to work together."
Milwaukee marketing firm Boelter + Lincoln hosted its holiday party at SPiN in December.
"A long time ago we used to have very fancy sort of suit-and-tie, sit-down-type Christmas parties," said Andy Larsen, vice president and director of public relations at Boelter.
But the company has made an effort to plan fun, informal, active events together in the last few years, including a previous party at SPiN, bocce ball and bowling.
Ping pong is a good team building activity and better fits the company culture than a formal event, Larsen said.
"We have crazy nuts ping pong players," he said. "(But) it's an anyone can play kind of activity. Everyone enjoys screwing around with it. It's close to our office, that doesn't hurt."
About 70 percent of groups who book tables at SPiN are corporate, Mayer said.
The Milwaukee County Zoo, traditionally a family fun activity, also books many corporate events each year, said Renee Klatt, group sales manager.
Companies can reserve the Peck Welcome Center or Zoofari Conference Center for a unique meeting space, followed by zoo admission.
Behind the scenes tours, scavenger hunts and an adventure course are also available. About eight times per summer, a company rents out the entire zoo for its staff, Klatt said.
The zoo has hosted picnics for as many as 22,000 people, and the indoor facilities can house 500 people.
"I think people are looking for something different, not the standard hotel property and I think that's what attracts them to the Peck Center for the daytime meetings," she said.