Charlotte residents looking to take a swing at a trendy new sport are in luck: The city’s first recreational axe-throwing facility, Lumberjaxe, will open this fall.
Axe-throwing sites have popped up across the U.S. in the last year. Lumberjaxe is the first in the Carolinas and one of the first in the Southeast. Lumberjacks (and their wives, known as Lumberjills) have thrown axes in sport for hundreds of years, but the modern activity comes from Canada, according to Rage Axe Throwing in Montreal.
Husband and wife Scott and Ashleigh Gadd were hooked when they saw a YouTube video a few years ago from a Toronto axe-throwing company. They built a target in their Boston backyard, started learning to throw and hosted friends to try it out.
When they moved back to Charlotte, where they’d lived after graduating college, they decided to bring the sport with them and started searching for a facility.
It was hard to find a building because of the high rent for new developments, Scott Gadd said, but eventually Lumberjaxe found a home — a large building on Louise Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlotte that used to be a Kellogg’s factory and currently stores antiques. Renovations will be minimal after Lumberjaxe moves into the space Sept. 1, and the grand opening is tentatively planned for late September.
Until then, Lumberjaxe is hosting events around the city with a custom-built truck with two targets — one “lane.” In the future, they’d like to build a trailer with four to six targets to let more people try it out.
“It’s really hard to sell (axe-throwing) by talking about it,” Scott Gadd said. “Letting people try it and actually throw makes it a lot better. People who haven’t tried it are definitely a little more skeptical, and that’s why we have the truck. We’re trying to get it in front of as many people as we can, because I understand it’s a difficult concept to grasp.”
At an event at Common Market in Plaza Midwood Thursday evening, people milled around an outdoor patio and wandered to the event from the adjacent neighborhoods. Two women who happened upon the event said they’d never thrown axes for sport before, but enjoyed it and would do it again.
“It feels really good to get some aggression out,” Kathryn Smith said. “I even have a Viking costume I can come to the center in, just to make it more epic.”
Finding insurance for the facility was the biggest hurdle and took a year, Scott Gadd said. They explained the safety precautions required by the National Axe Throwing Federation, but insurers were still skeptical — one wanted them to have an EMT on staff at all times, but the owners reminded them that the center will be less than a mile from two hospital systems. All employees will be first-aid certified.
The main safety rules for axe throwing are simple: Don’t throw when someone is downrange. Don’t go downrange when someone else is throwing. Don’t throw at an axe stuck in the board. Don’t try to stop or catch an axe.
The lane on the mobile truck is enclosed with netting, and the six lanes in the facility will be separated by floor-to-ceiling chain-link fencing, Scott said. One staff member will be at each lane to ensure safety and give instructions, and no one under 18 can throw, although they’re working with insurance to allow that in the future.
“The guys in Toronto have been open for 10 years now and they’ve had three injuries that were all very minor, so we’re banking on following their model and following the safety precautions they have in place,” he said.
The Gadds are in the process of getting a liquor license to sell beer and wine, but for now, the center will be bring-your-own-bottle. Staff will be bartender-certified and trained to recognize signs of intoxication — if customers aren’t following the rules or throwing safely, they’ll be asked to stop.
Estimated prices will start at $20 per hour for individual walk-in sessions; group events will be $40 per person for 2.5 hours. The center will also host 8-week competitive leagues following national federation rules.
Anyone can throw axes regardless of age, experience or physical ability, Scott Gadd said, and they just have to remember one thing.
“Don’t think too much about it,” he said. “It’s pretty simple, and you don’t have to put in a lot of force behind it. Just have fun.”
Taylor Blatchford: 704-358-5354, @blatchfordtr