While cruising the trade show floor at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018 in Orlando I noticed two vendors had booths promoting axe throwing. I thought to myself, would axe throwing work in an amusement park?
Not counting lumberjacks in the forest, it turns out that the first axe-throwing in North America is believed to have started in 2011. Toronto bartender and actor Matt Wilson opened an indoor arena with axe-throwing and drinks. Drunks throwing axes. What could possibly go wrong?
Recently on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey, I noticed two stand-alone businesses offering axe throwing with prizes awarded for accuracy. In Atlantic City, the Steel Pier had re-named their pub on the boardwalk the AC Axe & Pub. They built their own fenced-in four-lane axe-throwing venue. Just steps from the Pier’s amusements, had axe throwing become part of the park, or like darts in a bar, was it just a distraction for those within the pub? I asked Anthony Catanoso, Steel Pier President.
“It’s not so much about being in an amusement park,” Catanoso explained. “The whole idea of axe throwing for us is to add to our adult amenities that front the boardwalk. Technically, it’s not in the park. You must be 21 to throw an axe. It’s not something considered part of our amusement package, but part of our bar experience. Since it opened it’s significantly increased the business in our inside pub. The normal set-up is a throwing alley that puts two axe throwers next to each other with no separation. We developed our lanes to have total and complete separation making it a much safer set-up. We’re the first in New Jersey to have axe throwing inside a pub. All others are bring your own bottle. We feel that we have more control over consumption if we are the seller.”
“Business has been very steady,” he continued. “We’re very pleased both with the number of people throwing axes and our bar sales. So far it’s been $15 for 10 minutes of throwing. This winter we’ll be primarily leagues and groups. People enjoy it because it’s something out of the ordinary. Anyone can do it. Here you can do it right on the boardwalk and it’s competitive fun. We saw how it started to pop up around the state and we were looking for the right hook to get people to the inside pub.”
But can axe throwing have a place in an amusement park? “Not in ours because it is restricted to those 21 and over,” Catanoso replied. “In our pub we want everyone to enjoy it. I don’t think one can have axe throwing inside an amusement park.”
At that point I had to try it for myself. It’s not easy, since the blade of the axe needs to hit the target as the axe rotates, not the back of the blade head, not the handle. It takes practice and accuracy. Eventually, you can see what happened in the photo above. It just proves the old adage, “Even a blind elephant finds a peanut once in awhile.”