Blade & Timber ax-throwing venue to return to Lawrence; owner will add mini golf, too

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Matt Baysinger has a handle on what to do with his newly acquired space at 722 Massachusetts St., which formerly housed Signs of Life.

Baysinger is honing plans to open an ax-throwing venue, Blade & Timber Lawrence, at that location this fall. And he plans to add Sinkers Lounge, with mini golf and cocktails, in the shared space sometime next year. 

“I think there is a huge lack of entertainment options downtown, so we (are) happy to be a part of the downtown scene,” Baysinger said. 

Signs of Life, a bookstore and cafe, announced last month that it was closing after two decades. Baysinger, who opened Breakout Lawrence across the street, purchased the building.

Swell Spark, the corporate parent of Blade & Timber, has ax-throwing locations in Kansas City, Wichita, Seattle, Honolulu, Portland and Austin. The company operated Blade & Timber at 809 Massachusetts St. from 2018 to 2019, until a fire at the location forced it to close. 

The previous Blade & Timber was destroyed by a fire in 2019. (Contributed photo)

“We had been open just over a year when the fire happened. (Business) was super steady,” Baysinger said. That space was renovated after the fire and now houses Raven Book Store. 

Lawrence Lowdown

With six throwing lanes, along with limited food and beverage offerings, Blade & Timber will cater to casual and serious throwers. You’ll have to be 10 or older to play. 

Changes in downtown rules since Blade & Timber closed will allow the new version to serve alcohol.

Although it is logical to worry that drinking beer and throwing an ax at a wooden target might be incompatible actions, Baysinger said there are regulations in place to prevent accidents. 

“We have been open since 2017 and have served literally hundreds of thousands of guests [at other locations] without an alcohol-related safety incident,” he said. “We have amazing coaches and thoughtful regulations in regards to alcohol and axes.”

Before patrons pick up, let alone throw an ax, a trained coach provides one-on-one guidance to ensure success and safety. 

Contributed photo

Nationally, with the success of Blade & Timber and similar venues, ax throwing has become an entertainment option similar to bowling or throwing darts. 

Ax throwing is easier than bowling, Baysinger believes. “Most folks don’t grow up throwing axes or have been trained to be intimidated by the idea,” he said.

“The reality is that ax throwing is for everyone. There is something very cathartic about flinging an ax through the air and hearing the ‘thunk’ of sticking it to the target. And because so few people have done it, most people are starting at the same level of expertise; it levels the playing ground for people of all abilities to be able to have fun.”  

Baysinger said the plans for the addition of Sinkers Lounge still are being crystallized. Swell Spark has a Sinkers Lounge in the Power & Light District in Kansas City that includes a nine-hole miniature golf course, tabletop golf and a full-service food and beverage menu. 

Whether the Lawrence location will have the same amenities is yet to be determined, but Baysinger is eager to establish more entertainment options downtown. 

“I love Lawrence,” he said. “It has been so sad to not have a Mass Street presence in my hometown since the fire, and we are excited to be back.”

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Lawrence Lowdown is a feature on developments around town. Have a tip? Let us know.

Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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