If you happened to flip to ESPN2 on Sunday night between heavy coverage of college basketball, you may have seen coverage of a different type of sport that’s quickly gaining attention and followers. Less than two years since its inception, the World Axe Throwing League found its way to the major sports channel and in front of a worldwide audience.
And if you happened to see that broadcast and think, “I could do that,” well, now’s your chance to prove it.
The axe-throwing craze landed in Aurora this month, as well as on television, as March 1 marked the opening of The Throwing Shed at 508 South Oak. So far, the spot seems like a six-point bullseye.
About a month after an inspiring double-date at a similar place in Springfield, Dan and Samantha Conklin opened the business that they hope will be the next family-friendly attraction in Aurora.
"We had fun and just decided to build one ourselves," said Dan of the outing. "It was kind of a spontaneous thing."
Mix that spontaneity with some good connections -- the Conklins are friends with the building's owners -- and a business can spring up pretty quickly. The Conklins and their silent partners in the endeavor worked tirelessly in their time off from their day jobs to repurpose the former carpet store, building five lanes that at the same time are safe and look nice.
"We wanted to make it nice so that when you're in [the lane] you feel safe," Conklin said. "The lanes are secure -- it's about as safe as a person can make it."
But the business owner was quick to point out that visitors don't have much reason to be concerned with safety in the first place as long as all the rules are followed. Those rules are printed out clearly on a table accompanying each lane, reminding participants of such tips as "Only one axe thrown at a time," "No axes outside the designated throwing lanes," "Don't cross the red line until the axe has stopped moving," and "Don't put fingers through the fence."
As far as the rules of the activity itself, it doesn't get much simpler. The Shed recommends scoring with WATL rules: each ring has a different point value, going up as the circles get smaller -- 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 points -- with the small blue dots going for 10 points each (but you can only aim for those on the last throw of the round). Conklin also said he suggests groups to play with six people per group at most -- any more and you don't get to throw as much in your allotted two hours.
While the current setup isn't necessarily recommended for kids, the Conklins are working on a solution for the whole family to get involved. In the works are wooden axes and foam targets that will make it easier and safer for kids to play alongside the adults.
"That's the goal: for the whole family to enjoy it," said Conklin, adding that while the other throwing establishments in the area include alcohol in their features, the Throwing Shed wants to stay away from that as much as possible. "We want to make sure it's family friendly."
Along with the kids' targets, other plans for expansion and upgrades are still in the works. The Conklins have plans to utilize rooms on the second floor of the building as an office and a party room, and to eventually make use of the full kitchen on the main floor (for now the place offers soda and peanuts as refreshment). There's also talk of taking the show on the road with a mobile version, perfect for hire and at outdoor events. Additionally, the owners plan to offer WATL-sanctioned leagues at some point in the future, with winners eligible to advance to state, national and international competitions.
But for now, the owners are happy with how well the first few weeks of business have gone. Visitors have already come from as far away as Golden City and West Plains, and the Facebook page had almost 750 likes within two weeks of the opening.
The Shed is open seven days a week at varying hours -- Monday through Thursday from 4-8, Friday from 4-10, Saturday from 10-10, and Sunday from 1-5. They suggest booking lanes ahead of time, on Facebook (The Throwing Shed) or by phone (417-840-7161), because space can fill up fast and walk-ins may have to wait.
As long as there's an open lane, though, the money and time are well spent.
"We've already had a lot of comments about the price compared to, say, a night of bowling," Conklin said. A two-hour session goes for a flat rate of 20 dollars.
"And no special shoes!"