A business with locations in Roanoke and Lynchburg is aiming to bring an axe throwing venue to downtown Blacksburg.
Blue Ridge Axe Throwing is awaiting approval on a conditional use permit that would allow it to open a location at 130 Jackson Street NW, which is just off the edge of the Virginia Tech campus. An arcade there opened last week.
Explaining some of the reasons for a new location in Blacksburg, co-owner Mitchell Tyler said they’ve seen solid growth with the axe throwing business and have been encouraged by the amount of traffic in Roanoke that comes from the New River Valley.
Tyler also noted the reception to their Mobile Axe Throwing Trailer, which travels throughout central and southwest Virginia.
“After several [New River Valley] bookings for the mobile unit, we started to look for a brick and mortar location that would allow us to put down roots and grow a Blacksburg customer base,” he wrote in an email.
Axe throwing has become increasingly popular over the years and its competitive form has even been featured on sports network ESPN, which regularly reserves a small corner of its programming to niche sports with dedicated fanbases.
“When we found the 130 Jackson St. property, it had been empty for over a year,” Tyler wrote. “We loved the space, but it was a little too large to build out as only axe throwing. We decided to couple another form of indoor entertainment with the axe throwing model and will be opening this location as an arcade, as well.”
Tyler said the arcade includes classics such as Ms. Pac-Man and Mortal Kombat and other forms of gaming such as Skee-Ball, air hockey and what he called “state-of-the-art immersive experience simulators.” He said console video gaming via systems such as the Wii, Playstation and Xbox are also available.
Blacksburg’s downtown commercial district requires a conditional use permit for a commercial indoor sports and recreation facility, which Tyler said is what axe throwing is considered. An arcade is considered an commercial indoor amusement facility, which doesn’t require a permit in that district, he said.
“We go before town council on Oct. 12 for a public hearing regarding the CUP and hopefully see positive action that night in the form of an approval,” Tyler wrote on Sept. 15.
Town Manager Marc Verniel said there were some questions about safety from some council members in an earlier discussion about the axe throwing venue.
Tyler said they follow the World Axe Throwing League’s venue rules, which stipulates a code of conduct and conditions such as type of axes thrown and certain distance from targets. Additionally, he said they provide separators between lanes—wood dividers with chain link cage pieces.
“We have live, certified WATL axe coaches with patrons at all times, so no one is ever left alone just to see what happens,” Tyler wrote. “We require everyone to wear closed-toed shoes, listen to the axe coaches at all times and do have a 12-year-old age policy.”
He said children 12 and older are OK as long as they’re with a parent or legal guardian.
“Safety is the only thing that comes before customer service for us,” Tyler wrote.
Tyler said there have also been questions about alcohol consumption. He said they won’t serve prepared food or any alcohol at the facility.
Tyler said they do allow private events that rent out the facility to serve alcohol for one day, granted they obtain an ABC license and meet all state requirements. He said, however, those kinds of events make up just a tiny fraction of all private events.
“We also do not allow anyone who appears to be inebriated to throw—whether they have been consuming alcohol or using other substances that may make it harder for them to safely participate,” he wrote, adding that they reserve the right to ask anyone who isn’t maintaining a safe environment to leave.
Tyler said they are otherwise looking forward to bringing axe throwing to downtown Blacksburg and helping grow the sport in the area. He said they have already hired more than 15 employees and expect that figure to grow once the axe throwing portion of the facility opens.