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.
Golfsmith's online and in-store showrooms house an almost endless list of golf gear for men, women, and children alike. Clubs, balls, and accessories from brands such as TaylorMade, MacGregor, and Callaway give players precise control over their game, and polos and long-sleeved shirts from Nike and Snake Eyes garb players in course-appropriate attire now that tuxedo T-shirts no longer qualify. Along with the extensive collection of equipment and golf bags, Golfsmith also carries GPS systems to give players a high-tech edge.
At Two Seasons Cycle & Ski, the 7,000-square-foot store stays well stocked with gear, apparel, and accessories to prepare customers for outdoor adventures any time of the year. Men, women, and youngsters can peruse racks full of snowboarding gear by major brands such as Burton and K2 Snowboards and skiing merchandise from top brands including Atomic and Völkl Skis, or call upon Dr. Robert S. Steinberg, podiatrist, for help with finding a properly fitting ski boot. When the ski lifts stop running and snowmen melt back into lifeguards, skiers can put away their gear in favor of the extensive inventory of bicycles and accessories by brands such as Shimano, Cannondale, Trek, and Schwinn.
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.