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Sports Connection

Since the early part of the decade, sports have claimed a prominent place in the Joliet entertainment world. Many believe the growth of sports organizations in the area has helped make Joliet an important attraction for neighboring communities. Mark Basso, founder of the Joliet Autobahn Country Club, says the city’s diverse entertainment options are part of its appeal. “Joliet is becoming an entertainment capital of the Midwest. There’s nowhere else you can go to get all this in a small area.”

Basso’s Autobahn Country Club is built on the same concept as golf-oriented country clubs, except high-speed driving is the focus. Since 2004, the club’s private membership has grown to more than 350, and the public can take advantage of some of the Autobahn’s features, which are available through group bookings. “We have a fleet of go-karts that go 60 miles an hour, we rent cars and track by the hour.”

Basso says the go-kart track is available for corporate events or private parties, and there are also options for those who want something faster than go-kart driving. “We also have a driving experience half-day program. We have a fleet of brand new BMWs, five of the new 135i coupes.” Basso says the half-day program includes an outing on the track.

Ever since NASCAR’s Jimmy Johnson won the Tropicana Twister-300 in 2001, Joliet racing fans have enjoyed a second high-speed sports option – the Chicagoland Speedway. This track features NASCAR and IndyCar competitions, and the 2008 season was the first to include night races. The stadium has a 75,000-fan capacity, free parking and a busy race schedule. According to the Chicagoland Speedway official site, 40 hospitality suites are available for groups and corporations. The hospitality package offers a great view of the speedway, closed-circuit race coverage, even pit tours when weather and schedule permit.

The Chicagoland Speedway is co-located with the Route 66 Raceway, a staple for drag racing enthusiasts since 1998. Dubbed the first true “Stadium of Drag Racing,” Route 66 Raceway has a quarter-mile, 30,000-seat, stadium-style drag strip. Like the Chicagoland Speedway, it offers luxury suites to accommodate groups and corporate events.

Fans of the Great American Pastime pack the seats at Silver Cross Field every season to take in a Joliet Slammers ball game. The Slammers are a continually solid team, most recently becoming the Frontier League Champions in 2011. Silver Cross Field also features the Joliet Sports Hall of Fame, which honors local sports heroes.

When the weather turns colder and football season begins, Joliet Memorial Stadium is the longtime host for youth, high school and college gridiron games. The stadium has a capacity of 10,000 on traditional bench-style seating typical of most high school or small collegiate stadiums. Depending on the schedule you can see contests featuring youth football organizations and the Joliet Catholic Academy High School football team. Fans of college football can get tickets for the University of St. Francis games.

Times have been good for Joliet sports fans since the early part of the decade, thanks to a growing number of professional teams and facilities. Each of the city’s sports entertainment options offer busy seasons with plenty of opportunities at the race track, football field and baseball diamond.

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