A bit disoriented and quite clueless, our Insight team joined five from the Red Shoes team for a standoff against a dozen suspects from Keller Inc. for a few rounds of laser tag at Badger Sports Park in Appleton.
Cryptic instructions before we entered this 3-D video game of sorts told us that to tag the enemy, we had to hold our phasers in one hand and press buttons on either side of the barrel as we took aim. We were the blue team, Keller, the red. That’s about all we had going in – along with a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of humor.
The whole point was to confuse and befuddle us – a nice starting point for team building, according to Pat Van Abel, owner/director of business development at Badger Sports Park. Since Badger Sports added the 5,000-square-foot, two-level LaserTron arena to its north Appleton facility in August, dozens of company teams have taken advantage of the chance to blast their frustrations and friendly fire among managers, owners, vendors and clients. More instructions would come after rounds two and three, filtered down through our team leaders who were charged with clearly communicating rules and commands.
“They say it gets like rugby in there,” Pat says. Companies tend to arrange team-building events in the late afternoon, combined with a happy hour in the party lounge. Prices vary depending on the size of the group; it costs $180 for a group of 10 to play laser tag for an hour. In the winter, there’s also dodge ball, mini-bowling and arcade style games (and for children, there’s a room of inflatable gym equipment). In the summer, there’s also go-carts, batting cages and mini-golf.
We met in the black-lit staging area and donned our vests for laser tag, outfitted with special CHIPS “Competitive Human Interactive Player Software” that can be programmed for different games to maximize team strategies.
On the red team for Keller: Kip Golden, Tracy Williams-Prince, Char Brittnacher, Michael Queoff, Rob Foytik, Tami Vosters, Dave Stubbs, Vern Nystrom and Cory Vandewettering. Joining me on the blue team: Lisa Cruz, Karen Buckoski, Rachel Wollersheim, Maria Heim and Dian Johnson from Red Shoes PR; Brian and Jill Rasmussen, Dave Allen, Wendy Gilbert, Paul Barker and Sara Herrell from Insight Publications.
From the start, the Keller team had the upper hand. Kip, project manager, admitted he had been to Badger Sports a week earlier with the Pulse young professionals group from the Fox Cities Chamber.
While we sought sniper positions in the forest of padded obstacles within the bowels of the lower level, Kip and his team stormed our side and blasted away at our goals.
Tracy fearlessly aimed her phaser high and shamelessly fired away at our goal –THEW-THEW-THEW – oblivious to the shots three of us on the blue team aimed simultaneously at her. (She earned more points with that strategy, however.)
After the first round, the red team had thousands of hits, while the clueless blues were in bad shape. Insight co-publisher Brian Rasmussen’s score was freakishly low for his normally take-no-prisoners nature. Something was up!
Next round, Brian figured out he had grabbed a red team vest by mistake. By the end of the fifth round, he was pretty happy to be on the winning team.
“It’s a great, great way to do team building,” Kip said over pizza and beer in the party lounge afterwards. “Our team is very competitive – extremely competitive – and that’s a very good thing. Some stay back and protect and some go in and get the job done, which is what you need in every team. We did win! That’s what you’ve got to do, right?”
Some from the Red Shoes gang had also played laser tag before – they had arranged a Tweet-up at Badger Sports Park through Twitter. Karen said she learned that communication is key to winning. Lisa agreed.
“Communication is huge. Stay away from big, intimidating guys! And sometimes you need to break the rules.”
For an after-work event that could get physical, what to wear playing laser tag was a question for some. Not for the Red Shoes PR gang – they, of course, wore their red shoes. Cruz showed off her 4-inch red Kate Spades.
“My feet are killing me, they really are,” she said.