Since 1989, Play It Again Sports has been keeping sports green, recycling gently used athletic equipment into new-to-you gear. Products from brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Wilson make up each store's enormous selection of new and recycled gear, which is replenished daily with goods for a wide selection of sports that ranges from baseball and football to snowboarding, skis, and ice skates. Treadmills and exercise bikes equip bodies with muscular suits of armor, and pintsize and adolescent equipment arms youngsters with protective padding until they eat enough bologna to grow muscles of their own. Knowledgeable staffers man each location, ready to answer questions, arrange gear deliveries or pick-ups, and even sharpen skates or wax snowboards. To ensure their stock remains robust, they also encourage athletes to collect their lightly used gear—including bicycles—and bring it into a local store to either sell or trade.
Bike Connection's mechanics keep two-wheelers in road-ready shape in addition to maintaining a broad inventory of cycles, parts, and accessories. The shop stocks fully built bikes from brands such as Specialized, KHS, and Surly, plus an abundant supply of wearables such as Giro and Bell helmets and Pearl Izumi gear for men and women. And in the service department, technicians tune up and clean up parts ranging from tires and brakes to headsets and clipped-on baseball cards with numerous, tiered maintenance packages.
A five-star PADI instructor-development center, Sea Lions Dive Center gathers a team of friendly instructors who train aspiring divers and budding dive instructors toward their certification. They help students plunge into the water at local quarries and in Lake Michigan for technique-refresher courses and open-water-dive certification, as well as specialized training in cavern and ice diving, underwater digital photography, and advanced fish heckling. When not leading local classes and helping to maintain the dive shop's relaxed atmosphere, staff instructors also lead monthly trips to regional destinations, such as North Carolina and Florida, or the far-flung waters of the Maldives and Indonesia.
Arming Windy City's flower followers with a bevy of buxom blossoms since 1889, Amling's Flowers brightens occasions across the spectrum with its fresh floral arrangements. Built from the fruits of partnerships with independent petal peddlers, Amling's artistic arrangements help express emotions fit for a range of occasions, from birthdays to funerals to the first of many joyous parking citations. Lilacs soothe schnozes and seers with a sense-pleasing blend of lavender roses and fragrant hydrangea ($39.95), while the Cotton Candy's bursts of roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums issue forth with pastel explosions not seen since Gregor Mendel cross-bred hyacinths with a stick of dynamite ($34.95+).
Paintball Explosion began when a group of paintball fanatics decided to make their dreams a reality and set about designing eight different fields of movie-set quality. Located just a 40-minute drive outside of Chicago, the real-life fantasy land they created includes the sci-fi-inspired, concrete environs of Code Black Field as well as the abandoned amusement-park setting of Biohazard Field.
The expansive facility also sports indoor and outdoor speedball fields for adrenaline-fueled fastness. Between matches, gamers can prepare at heated buildings with locker rooms and showers. With an onsite sports bar and grill, Paintball Explosion makes the paintball haven a place where enthusiasts can discuss the forces of velocity, wind resistance, and the physics of splatter.
Wheaton Sport Center's expert Pilates trainers fortify cores with personalized workouts that match the distinct fitness goals and abilities of every participant. Consisting of three to five students, the six-week, semiprivate Pilates reformer sessions tone, tighten, and align bodies throughout 55–60 minutes of varied exercises that help to enhance muscular balance, improve posture, and distinguish left wrists from anterior cruciate ligaments. First-time participants can skip the fundamentals course required to register for the session and instead receive a general orientation during their first class. Each week, the challenging, nonstop circuit workout conjures up full-body aerobics by rotating through simple mat exercises, dynamic machine routines, and exercises with Pilates props from gym-set productions of A Streetcar Named Desire.