When you think of axe throwing, you might envision lumberjacks in the woods blowing off steam by challenging each other to throw axes into trees. Well think again because axe throwing is actually a sport, and it’s now played in bars and organized leagues across the country.
The axe-throwing trend originated in Toronto a few years ago and has since spread to the States.
“It first appeared in larger cities but has begun to pop-up in smaller cities, suburbs, and even rural towns,” says Brent Dyer, Co-Owner of Cutting Edge Global Entertainment. “The trend has grown exponentially in the last three years, and the market still isn’t very saturated. It is proving to be an optimum solution for business owners to better combat the ‘bar-hop phenomenon.’”
It’s also proving to be a great community builder. “Axe throwing has turned from just a place where people go to throw axes to a whole sport,” explains Brent Pollack, President of AxeThrowingInsurance.com. “It does not matter what color you are, how tall you are, how fast you run, your gender, your age, or how much you weigh, you can be great at axe throwing—and that is the beauty of it. It is a whole community of people—an extended family.
“With that said, it is still great for the bar setting, hanging out with friends, bachelors and bachelorettes, date-spots, heck my mom even went with all of her friends.”
It’s so popular that there are now multiple companies in the business of creating spaces for novices and pros alike to take part in the sport. And yes, there’s even a professional league called the World Axe Throwing League. “They turned Axe Throwing from just a place where people go throw axes to a whole sport that has been on ESPN multiple times,” says Pollack.
Stan Checketts started in the amusement industry before he founded Axe Pros. “Stan has been throwing axes for over 50 years at homemade targets,” says Cody Davis, General Manager, Axe Pros. “As the popularity of axe throwing started growing, Stan thought he would make turnkey systems that people could purchase complete.”
Today, Axe Pros offers several different systems including stationary and mobile units.
Games such as pool, darts, and Skee-Ball have been traditional staples at bars for years, but axe throwing offers guests something entirely new.
“Axe throwing is a new trend and something that most people haven’t ever done,” says Davis. “It is really a lot of fun and very fulfilling when you make the axe stick.”
One of the reasons axe throwing is so popular is because it is something that looks very “extreme,” but it’s an activity that anyone can do. “I think the bar scene is a perfect setting,” says Davis. “You have a bunch of people sitting around having a good time. Add in the friendly competition of an extreme sport that can be done right there. It’s a perfect match and a great opportunity for friendly competition.”
Axe Pros offers partially enclosed and fully enclosed axe-throwing lanes for bars and restaurants. A large footprint isn’t required as two axe-throwing lanes can be added to any location with an open space of 10 feet-by-20 feet.
Davis suggests fully enclosed lanes to help maintain safety in bar settings. “I recommend fully enclosed lanes with an operator to ensure that only one person is in a lane at a time, and no axes ever leave the lane,” says Davis. “Local permitting and insurance options should be considered before placing an order.”
Cutting Edge Global Entertainment
Cutting Edge by Global Entertainment lauds itself as the world’s premier builder of high-end axe lanes. “Our lanes are designed and built to look polished, which best suits the bar and restaurant industries,” says Dyer.
A proprietor can, and will, go to great lengths to design and manage their establishment to entice patrons to visit. “Getting a patron in the door is only half of the battle, though,” explains Dyer.
Shortly after the first drink is poured, smartphones begin to appear and discussions begin on where to go next. “Insight into what other venues have to offer is literally at their fingertips,” says Dyer.
Bars have to create an environment that is engaging enough so that guests are only using their phones to take great photos to post on social media—not looking for the next place to visit. “Give them a reason to, essentially, do your branding for you and stick around to spend more money at the same time,” says Dyer. “All of this can be accomplished if you have 200 square feet of space to spare.”
Millennials and generation Z are, seemingly, becoming more and more money-conscious. “While they are still willing to spend money on a night out, they look for more value out of their experience,” says Dyer. “There is a thrilling element of ‘getting away with something you shouldn’t be doing’ when you whiz an axe at a wall, but you’re in a completely controlled and safe environment.”
“Axe-perts” will instruct and guide throwers on what to do, and it’s more about technique than strength, so really anyone can participate. “We foresee the inclusion of active entertainment into the bar and restaurant scene growing tremendously in upcoming years,” says Dyer.
Cutting Edge offers consulting and customizable packages so that the new lanes will fit into a bar’s existing theme, if they would prefer that over the standard Cutting Edge design.
“Installation and training by our skilled staff is included in a full package, along with a nice starter kit to maintain their lanes as necessary,” says Dyer. “We can manufacture custom stencils so they can brand their lanes with their logos, create custom axes, and more.”
In terms of safety, the addition of fencing can be considered over standalone throwing. “Owners and managers also want to ensure that their staff is trained and comfortable with identifying intoxicated patrons and how to handle those situations,” says Dyer.
Finding “axe-perts” and training them properly, which Cutting Edge assists in, is imperative. “They will set the mood for the entire experience,” says Dyer. “It’s actually an incredibly safe activity, despite how intimidating or dangerous it seems when first described.”
In terms of insurance, Cutting Edge has seen premiums go up for bars slightly, but it will be dependent on the individual carrier. “However, we also have our own insurance companies that we partner with and can refer clients to who guarantee coverage and will offer very competitive rates,” says Dyer. “So far, the maximum annual cost someone could expect is $5000.”
But the premium increase and the initial buy-in cost all may be worth the increased profits on the backend.
“Out of my twelve years of being in the attractions industry, I have yet to see a product that is more affordable for a customer to build, experience so much growth, and generate a more exciting experience than axe throwing. It’s a triple threat at the moment,” says Dyer. “People enjoy the simplicity of the game now, and as it grows in popularity, more games will be desired and the product will evolve.
“Our research and development team is doing everything possible to ensure we and the customers we serve are at the cutting edge of that growth.”