Posted: January 15, 2020

The Emergence of Axe Throwing in Chicago, Illinois

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The Windy City

Situated in Illinois and on Lake Michigan, the bustling City of Chicago is among one of the top cities across North America for culture, trends and entertainment. The city is known for its vast culture and historic sports franchise including the Chicago Bears, Chicago White Socks, Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Blackhawks. The popularity of sports and exciting new trends in the city sparked the desire by the population for a new and exciting thing to do. Urban axe throwing at the Backyard Axe Throwing League Chicago became the perfect opportunity to offer the people of Chicago a new and thrilling activity to experience.

The History of Axe Throwing

The sport of axe throwing was established in 2006 in the Toronto backyard of Matt Wilson. What started as a personal passion sparked by a camping trip with friends soon spread through word-of-mouth in Toronto. Matt Wilson spent his career learning the ropes of the hospitality business in Toronto, which enabled the creation of the first-ever urban axe throwing venue in Toronto, The Backyard Axe Throwing League. Urban axe throwing is comprised of ‘arenas,’ which are similar to a cross between a batting cage and bowling alley, with private space for groups of any size, and a music selection.

BATL, The Backyard Axe Throwing League

The Backyard Axe Throwing League’s mission is to show people the power of being good to each other, using the axe as a tool to build community inspired by the background roots. Matt Wilson’s BATL is the first organization in the world to offer an urban venue to experience the thrill of indoor axe throwing. Today over 1 million people have experienced the thrill of the sport across the globe. With the success of BATL in the Greater Toronto Area, expansion was possible into Detroit, Pickering, Hamilton, London, Calgary, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Nashville, Niagara Falls and the windy city of Chicago. This has encouraged and excited celebrities and television show segments such as; Hockey Wives, Grand Opry’s Another Round, Ruby Rose, Gerard Butler, George Parros, Clive Standen and many more.

The National Axe Throwing Federation

Through the expansion and popularity of the sport within the Backyard Axe Throwing League and other companies opening axe throwing locations across the world, the National Axe Throwing Federation (NATF) was established in early 2016 to service the sport of axe throwing globally and facilitate inter-league competition amongst members. The rule system upon which the NATF dates back over 12 years, having grown organically to form the basis of league play for over 4,000 competitive axe throwers. The members of the NATF are eligible to participate in National Axe Throwing Federation sanctioned events, such as the National Axe Throwing Championship, and enjoy free use of digital scoring and league management software hosted on, amongst other benefits. A member of the NATF was a new location in Chicago, Thunderbolt Axe Throwing.

Thunderbolt Axe Throwing

Founded by Scott Hollander, Thunderbolt Axe Throwing was the first-ever axe throwing venue in Chicago. Located in the Portage Park neighbourhood, near the surrounding neighbourhoods of Old Irving Park, Avondale, Dunning and Des Plaines. Hollander is an axe thrower himself and former lawyer who has a passion for showing people a good time, throwing fun events and teaching people how to throw axes. Thunderbolt Axe Throwing Chicago gained local press in Voyage Chicago, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Tonight amongst other news outlets.

Scott Hollander expressed to Chicago Tonight that “I used to be a lawyer and I left my job and I was travelling with friends. I’d thrown axes before outdoors for fun while camping and stuff like that, but I never knew about a business like this… We were travelling to Montreal and saw a place like this – and I immediately thought of Chicago.”

Furthermore, Scott believes that “it’s just a unique way for Chicagoans to have some harmless fun… I catch people on their way out turning to each other, you know, ‘that was awesome’ and that’s all I’m going for, you know, just having people just have a really good time.” The success of Thunderbolt Axe Throwing Chicago led to the merge with BATL, The Backyard Axe Throwing League.

Expansion with the Backyard Axe Throwing League

In December 2017, Scott Hollander and Thunderbolt Axe Throwing Chicago joined the team at BATL. Offering the community free public open houses and the launch of weekly axe throwing league nights (offered Sunday – Wednesday). This caught the eye of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and his segment, which can be viewed here. The piece discusses the emerging trend of axe throwing and the expansion of BATL in Chicago.

A Visit to BATL Chicago

The Backyard Axe Throwing League offers axe throwing on a walk-in basis at designated times each week. Our coaches will be on hand to instruct those who have never thrown an axe before, and offer tips on technique for more experienced throwers looking to sharpen their skills. Similar to public skating, skiing or swimming – guests throw in a common area with other participants, and may need to make allowance for shared space based on friendly guidance from your BATL coach.

Our leagues are the perfect excuse to get together with friends, make a few new ones and enjoy a little competition. With no experience necessary you’ll compete individually while receiving tips from our friendly coaches – and plenty of time to hang out between throwing. Our calendar culminates in the National Axe Throwing Championship, with qualifying players competing against the best throwers globally for the Wilson Cup and $7500 in prize money.

News & Events at BATL Chicago

The Backyard Axe Throwing League is a proud member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Be sure to introduce yourself to the General Manager, Scott Hollander at the next networking event through the chamber! Since 2006, BATL has hosted dozens of fundraising events and donated our services to a number of local charities and non-profit organizations such as schools, hospitals and other special causes. At BATL Chicago we are always looking for opportunities to get involved with the community, and we are capable of hosting your next fundraiser event or if you’d like to request BATL to support an upcoming non-profit fundraising event, please contact your BATL Chicago for eligibility requirements.  Please take a few minutes to learn more about these organizations and get involved at this link.

Other Ways to Explore Chicago

Explore New Flavours in Chicago

Chicago is recognized across the world as a major food and restaurant destination for tourism – which makes eating throughout the city an experience for all guests. It may be a highly contested topic in the world of Italian food, but a Chicago-style deep dish pizza still remains a must-try. For the authentic taste, check out Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria on North Avondale Avenue in the Irving Park area. While you’re in Irving Park indulge in another Chicago classic – the Italian beef sandwich. Roma’s Italian Beef Sausage on North Cicero Avenue is an area staple.

The Chicago Music Scene

Chicago goes hand-in-hand with blues and jazz, and you can find music of all genres all around town. Partake in one of the many music festivals that take place in the summer, from the more casual affairs like the Do Division Street Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival in Millennium Park to the more raucous affairs like Lollapalooza in Grant Park or Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park. If you’re looking for something more relaxed, try checking out live music venue Silvie’s Lounge or Fuller’s Pub in the Irving Park area.

Experience Baseball in Chicago

We know the sports scene in Chicago is full of history, and the Chicago Cubs are already one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball (MLB), and coming fresh off a 2016 World Series victory a ticket at Wrigley Field is a hot commodity these days. Situated in Wrigleyville, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest baseball stadium in the major leagues, and a must-see stop on any trip to Chicago. After the game, the streets of Wrigleyville are packed with fans enjoying a walk down the street or stopping in at one of the many bars in the area. If Chicago’s Northside isn’t your thing, head on down to the Southside and take in a White Sox game as U.S. Cellular Field. Situated just south of The Loop and Chinatown, be sure to grab a hot dog while you’re there – just make sure you don’t ask for any ketchup.

The Navy Pier in Chicago

Chicago’s Navy Pier is an exciting 1.5 mile-long boardwalk that is sure to please people of all ages. Attracting well over 8 million visitors per year, Navy Pier is lined with restaurants such as Bubba Gump, Billy Goat’s Tavern and Capi’s Italian Kitchen and studded with small shops selling everything from apparel to toys to Chicago souvenirs. If shopping isn’t your idea of a good time, not to worry: Navy Pier is also home to a large arcade, mini golf, and plenty of amusement park-style rides.

Come and experience the history of axe throwing at the Backyard Axe Throwing League in Chicago and feel the thrill that has expanded the sport across the world through the National Axe Throwing Federation, while enjoying all the other gems that Chicago has to offer!

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