With Olympic ambitions, founder says urban axe throwing is “bowling 2.0”
If Mario Zelaya gets his way, urban axe throwing will be the next bowling.
As commissioner of the World Axe Throwing League, Zelaya wrote the book on the sport, which has people throwing hand axes at targets like a giant, more rugged version of darts. He’s also the founder of Canadian-born Bad Axe Throwing, the first business of its kind to offer recreational and competitive urban axe throwing, and it’s expanding into Minneapolis along the sport’s way to global popularity.
“My aspiration is to have this be an Olympic sport, no different than how you see bowling, archery or fencing,” he said. “If bowling can be popular in Germany, so can urban axe throwing.”
Zelaya developed the sport in his backyard in Ontario and would eventually create a governing body to take urban axe throwing to the next level. The World Axe Throwing League was born. Making it mainstream, however, required venues. That’s when Zelaya founded Bad Axe Throwing.
The venues, typically in spacious warehouse spaces, appear as woodsy hybrids of bowling alleys and dart boards with large wooden targets. Each concentric circle is worth one to four points, and a bullseye scores six. Blue spots or kill shots interspersed throughout the target are available on the final throw and are worth 10 points. Standing 12 feet back, players take turns throwing small hand axes at two targets over 10 rounds. Whoever gets the most points wins.
“The kill shot is really what makes it that much more exciting. It allows anyone to come back from behind,” he said.
Bad Axe hosts walk-in games, reserved events and weekly leagues. With private groups, Bad Axe staff will walk players through the rules of the game and teach them how to throw axes. The venues have hosted birthday parties, corporate events and even divorce parties.
“You might want to bring a photo and put it up on a target and they can throw axes at it,” he said.
Beyond the novelty of throwing axes, Zelaya said the sport is a great social activity and its “raw, rugged” culture makes it unique. Players get into it quickly with the thrill of each axe thudding against the target.
“As long as it sticks to the target, that’s when the rush begins,” he said.
Guests can watch for free or take advantage of the venue’s beer, wine and food. At the Minneapolis location Zelaya said the menu would be phased in four to six months after opening.
Zelaya said he envisions the sport as the future of active entertainment, a kind of “bowling 2.0.” Urban axe throwing has already gone global with similar venues opening up in France, England and Brazil, not to mention its exponential growth domestically.
“By the end of this year you’re going to see an axe-throwing venue in every major city in the U.S.,” he said.
Bad Axe Throwing is set to open its Minneapolis location around Friday, Jan. 26 at 2505 Kennedy St. NE in the Mid-City Industrial neighborhood. The nearly 9,000-square-foot warehouse space will be locals’ first chance to try out the official sport of urban axe throwing.
“What we do in every city, including Minneapolis, is [build] an outlet for [urban] axe throwing,” he said.