Competition will be stiff again this year as Walmart supplier companies and other organizations take a day off work on May 4 to take part in the fourth annual Corporate Games at The Jones Center in Springdale.
The Jones Center started the event as a way to give businesses and organizations a day of competition and team building at a first-class facility, said Kelly Kemp-McLintock, chief advancement officer for The Jones Center.
A full slate of teams will participate, including Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, ConAgra Brands, The Hershey Co., Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, PepsiCo, Spectrum Brands, Arvest, Harrison French & Associates, Harvest Group, Flintco, Northwest Health, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance and Camp War Eagle.
Each team, made up of 14 to 26 people, pays $900 for the day, with the money going to The Jones Center’s recreation operations budget. The day begins at 8 a.m. and includes laser tag, curling, volleyball, dodgeball, wiffle ball, hotshot basketball, disc golf, a “Survivor” type relay race and a spin bike challenge. An awards ceremony and happy hour, sponsored by Core Brewing Co., conclude the day about 5 p.m.
Stephen Paul, recreation program coordinator, said most of the events are played in a bracketed tournament, so each event has a winner. Teams receive points for first, second and third places.
Procter & Gamble’s team took home the grand prize trophy for the first and third years of the event. Kellogg’s came out on top the second year.
Competitors say one of the highlights of the day is the Battleship event, where each of the teams launches a canoe loaded with four players in a swimming pool. The teams try to sink other teams’ canoes with buckets of water. The competition, they say, is fierce.
“Battleship was pretty serious [last year]. We went head to head with Hershey’s, and we had our sights set on victory. But we lost in the end,” said Bo Ebbrecht with Bentonville design firm Harrison French & Associates (HFA). “That was a pretty bitter defeat. But, if you’re going to lose to anybody, it might was well be a chocolate company.”
The competition is serious because everybody is there to win, and “there’s some trash talking within the team, and from one team to another,” said Tracey Kenny, a human resources manager with ConAgra.
Good-natured sportsmanship wins out, however, because everyone understands the event is about having a fun experience outside the office with teammates, Paul said.
ConAgra first participated in the Corporate Games last year, and Kenny said they didn’t practice beforehand because they didn’t realize how competitive the day was. The Jones Center offers teams the opportunity to practice, but most don’t take advantage of it, Paul said. ConAgra’s team doubled from 15 participants last year to 30 for this year’s competition, and Kenny said they will find a way to practice in order to place higher.
Teams competed in a variety of ways, but the surprise hit of the Corporate Games was the curling competition.
“Most people don’t curl as a hobby, but we had more people love the curling event than anything else,” Ebbrecht said. “It was just the novelty of it, being on the ice, learning what curling was. Everybody had a blast curling.”
Kenny believes the popularity of curling at the Corporate Games is because it is an Olympic sport that the average person can play, as opposed to some of the more difficult Olympic events.
BENEFITS TO COMPANIES
The Corporate Games provide an invaluable team-building experience where players are doing something out of the ordinary and have to learn to trust each other. Teams find out “who’s going to lead in certain situations, and who’s going to follow and how they’re going to delegate things out,” Paul said.
“You get to see who’s competitive, who rises to the challenge,” Kenny agreed.
With 220 employees at HFA, it’s difficult to know everybody, so the Corporate Games also provide a way for people to “hang out together” who might not do that during a typical day at the office. That builds morale, Ebbrecht said.
Participants say the event is also a good way to get to know peers at competitive companies. HFA was up against another architecture firm last year.
“It was nice to be on a separate level where you’re not competing for work. You’re competing for fun and eternal glory and for championships,” Ebbrecht said.
An added benefit is that participating in the Corporate Games encourages employees to be physically fit and active, Ebbrecht said. Fitness is something HFA stresses with its employees. For organizations like Camp War Eagle, the Corporate Games are a networking opportunity to get the organization out in front of people in the community who have children who might attend their camp.
BENEFITS TO THE JONES CENTER
The event is equally important to The Jones Center, as a third of its $4.2 million operating budget comes from corporate giving. The Corporate Games gives the center a way for companies to experience the amenities of the facility and better understand how its mission of providing quality programs at the lowest cost possible benefits the community, Paul said.
“It’s really an anchor for the community for adults and children to benefit from and learn from. The flip side of that is we’re out there playing dodgeball and volleyball all day, but the true meaning of the games is to support and sponsor what is really a jewel and anchor for the community,” Ebbrecht said.
Ebbrecht added the HFA team plans to come back strong this year.
“We are solely dedicated for victory this year, and we are taking no prisoners. We’re on the rampage!” he exclaimed. “We’re going to come back with a vengeance. Let everybody know that at HFA, we’re out for victory this year.”
Paul said companies interested in being a part of the 2019 Corporate Games should reach out to The Jones Center.
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