Photo | Courtesy Bad Axe Throwing / Blake Bottrill
Throwing darts and bowling balls is so last century when you want to go out and have some fun with your friends. All the cool kids know what the hot activity is now.
Or should I say cold, like when it’s winter in Canada and the hockey game is not on. What else would you do to pass the time than throw an axe?
That is the idea behind Bad Axe Throwing. The company’s stated goal is to bring the traditional Canadian hobby to urban communities.
The first location opened in Burlington, Ontario, in 2014. It has found a following in the United States, with the newest location being found in Spanish Fort at the Eastern Shore Centre.
The man behind the plan is Mario Zelaya, the CEO of Bad Axe, who spoke to Lagniappe by phone.
“The sport originally started as a backyard activity,” he said. “I wondered to myself if it was something we could commercialize. I wasn’t sure if it would be successful, but we gave it a shot.”
Zelaya said he immediately received a lot of positive feedback from those visiting the site. Bad Axe soon began to expand across Canada.
“By late 2016, it was time to shift to the U.S.,” Zelaya said. “Our first location was in Chicago. Now we are in about 40 cities, and are opening about one a month.”
The initial location in Alabama was Huntsville. Then the opportunity came to reach the Gulf Coast.
“We were contacted by the developers of the shopping center,” Zelaya said. “This is typically what happens. They either see it on TV or hear from others. The Spanish Fort people learned about us from an article discussing ‘active entertainment’ businesses. Axe throwing can be a positive draw to their real estate.”
Because the activity has become so popular, Zelaya said it brings a lot of traffic to a shopping center, which can spread attention to other tenants.
“We are [in Suite 606] near the movie theater, so it is a nice destination to go shopping and get something to eat. We are another form of entertainment,” Zelaya said. “We have eight targets in Spanish Fort. We have room for expansion, if needed.”
The most obvious question about having a room full of people throwing axes is how safe can it be?
“We make it clear it is an establishment to have fun,” Zelaya said. “It is not one to get intoxicated or be obnoxious. You follow the rules or are asked to leave. You cannot be intoxicated to throw an axe. In fact, we have had no issues in five years.”
The future looks bright for the sport. When Zelaya was speaking to Lagniappe, he was on his way back from Des Moines, Iowa, after having attended the U.S. Open for axe throwing. The event was broadcast on ESPN.
“There were 128 competitor from the U.S. and Canada; the most competitive and talented in the world,” Zelaya said. “It was completely sold out. This was the second U.S. Open, but the first time on ESPN. This validates this as a sport. It was an excellent show, and we got a lot of great feedback.”
Bad Axe is part of the World Axe Throwing League (WATL), which is the governing body of the sport, with members in 17 countries and more than 150 facilities. Local competitors are encouraged to take part in eight-week-long sanctioned leagues in Spanish Fort that could eventually earn them a spot at the WATL Championship on ESPN.
“Most people don’t realize most of our customers are corporate bookings,” he said. “If there is not time for golfing, you can gather for a few hours and have fun. Anyone from a small business to large business.”
To learn more about the league and to make reservations, visit badaxethrowing.com or call 888-435-0001.
BayBear staff honored
The Southern League has honored Ari Rosenbaum and Steve Goldberg of the Mobile BayBears with 2019 Executive Awards. Rosenbaum earned Outstanding Employee of the Year for the second time in three seasons, while Goldberg was named Radio Broadcaster of the Year.
Rosenbaum served as a member of the BayBears front office for 14 seasons and was assistant general manager for the final five. He also helped manage the day-to-day operations during the team’s farewell season in Mobile.
“It is an honor to receive this award again,” Rosenbaum said. “There is no way I could ever accept it without acknowledging the staff around me. The entire front office and game-day staff are the only reason I could ever be in a position to receive such an award. I owe all my gratitude to the staff that supported me on a daily basis.”
Goldberg handled all duties as director of broadcasting and media relations, in addition to other responsibilities as a front office staff member. He recently completed his third season with the BayBears and fifth overall in Minor League Baseball.
“It is a tremendous honor to receive this award in the final year of BayBears baseball,” Goldberg said. “Our entire staff was committed to ensuring a memorable farewell season for fans in the city of Mobile, and I believe we delivered that in all aspects. I will forever look back fondly on my time with this organization and the camaraderie with my colleagues in the Southern League.”
USA to play fall softball
The University of South Alabama (USA) softball team will play nine games this fall at Jaguar Field. South will open up the exhibition schedule against Mississippi College on Sept. 28, at 2 p.m., and West Florida on Sept. 29, at 4 p.m.
USA will welcome Central Alabama Community College on Oct. 4, at 4 p.m. The Jags will host their third annual Alumni Game the following day at 2 p.m., pitting the current roster against several Jaguar greats. On Oct. 9, South will host Spring Hill College at 6 p.m.
South will then play four games in seven days beginning with Southern Union Community College on Oct. 17, at 6 p.m. The Jags will welcome LSU Eunice — which finished with a 52-6 record and won the NJCAA Division II national championship last season — on Oct. 19, at 3 p.m. The Jags then close out the fall schedule with games against Coastal Alabama Community College on Oct. 20, at 4 p.m., and University of Mobile on Oct. 24, at 6 p.m.
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