Activity-based entertainment expands in Metro Detroit

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Nothing says unwinding with friends or family like a night out getting a bite to eat, having some cocktails and ... flinging hatchets?

Yes, two ax-throwing facilities have popped up in Metro Detroit this year, adding to the region’s activity-based entertainment scene that already included ping pong, arcade bars — two opened in downtown Detroit just weeks apart — and a sport that blends bowling and football. Competitive ax throwing, popular in Canada, is exactly what it sounds like: folks throwing hatchets at a wooden board.

On Monday, Detroit Axe swung open its doors for business in downtown Ferndale. The 12-lane space is above the Corner, a new restaurant concept where Local Kitchen & Bar used to be.

The question that many people ask themselves when hearing about ax throwing as a bar sport is: Is that safe?

“Two things ... No. 1 is safety and No. 2. is instruction, and they are both equally important” said co-owner Geoff Kretchmer.

He and his business partner Brian Siegel traveled to London, Ontario, to get more acquainted with the sport and train their staff on the tenets of being an “ax master.” Those four pillars are introduction, safety, instruction and scoring. For every two lanes of play, there’s a dedicated ax master right there to monitor and assist players.

“We do take it very seriously, you are throwing a weapon. We are also extraordinarily disciplined on the safety of what’s going on here,” said Kretchmer, adding that anyone who displays erratic or intoxicated behavior will not be allowed to throw.

For those who choose not to fling axes, or who are waiting for their turn, the Corner has a full bar and a menu of moderately priced, gourmet pub grub — including an on-site mini doughnut fryer — plus loads of board games from throughout the decades.

“The whole concept was re-written for the neighborhood,” said owner Brian Siegel, who describes the menu as “accessible” and “understandable.”

Siegel, who also owns Joe Dumars Fieldhouse with Kretchmer, says he is in the activity-based entertainment business because it makes for a more interactive and comfortable experience.

“When you’re not just at a bar, you’re engaging over an activity and it’s easier to make conversation and people let their guards down and it’s just more fun,” he said, adding that he sees this as a trend that’s going on around the country. “I think the time of just going to a single-purpose bar — while there will always be a place for it — I think you’re going to see more and more fun places, particularly in cold-weather cities.”

Angelo Reese, 13, of Harper Woods and his mother Lekisha Reese, 40, play “FootPool”at the Gamer’s Gallery in Hamtramck.

Another new fun place that opened this week is the Gamer’s Gallery. Located above the Fowling Warehouse in Hamtramck where they blend football and bowling. Gamer’s Gallery has FootPool, which combines soccer and pool using 10 soccer balls. Players kick the balls around on a 12-foot by 8-foot table on the ground.

“We wanted to create something that was social and fun,” said Gamer’s Gallery co-owner Ashleigh Brock, who says her business is geared toward family-fun, and they don’t have bar service set up yet.

In addition to FootPool, Gamer’s has karaoke rooms, video games and dartboards.

“A lot of us are competitive,” said Brock, who, along with her husband Aron Brock owns a woman-centric workspace Femology as well as a local barbershop. “We also have board games as well, so we’re just kind of bringing back that family game night.”

The Hub Stadium in Auburn Hills started offering ax throwing in September.

The Hub Stadium in Auburn Hills, which opened in January, offers a version of Fowling they call Bombowling, and in September brought in ax throwing lanes as well. While small groups and walk-ins are welcome, chief operations officer Beth Hussey says most of Hub’s business is from booking private parties.

“I’d say 75-80 percent of our business is corporate events and parties, large group parties, we’re just the perfect venue for that because we have a really nice banquet menu and to be able to offer more than just food and drinks, something for their guests to do ... have team-building experiences, is what makes our place really unique,” Hussey says. “We have three or four different spaces that can accommodate up to 400 people.”

The Hub also offers league play, for folks looking to join a team or create their own. Walk-ins for open ax throwing or Bombowling are allowed, but Hussey suggests making reservations on the facility’s website.

Those that do find themselves waiting for a lane can kill time with some free games like giant Jenga, ping-pong and ring-on-a-string. The latter, also known as bimini, involves trying to connect a ring on a string to a hook on the wall.

Sounds like a fun game for those who are maybe not ready to fling that hatchet.

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Azzi Jawany, 11, and his father, Jamal Jawany, 36, both of Hamtramck, play “crateball” at the Gamer’s Gallery.

Unique entertainment

Some activity-based entertainment venues in Metro Detroit:

Drive Table Tennis and Social Club

Ping pong facility with full bar and restaurant

645 Griswold, Detroit

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri. and 2 p.m.-midnight Sat.

(313) 962-1830 /

Pop + Offworld

Arcade games, pizza and bar

128 Cadillac Square, Detroit

11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily

All ages welcome most days, some events are 18-plus or 21-plus

Ready Player One

Arcade, bar and restaurant

407 E. Fort, Lower Level, Detroit

5 p.m.-1 a.m. Tues.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat. and 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sun.

(313) 395-3300 /

21+ after 9 p.m.

Punch Bowl Social

Bowling, karaoke and video games with bar and restaurant

1331 Broadway, Detroit

11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thurs.-Fri., 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat. and 9 a.m.-midnight Sun.

(313) 749-9738 /

21+ after 9 p.m.

Fowling Warehouse

A blend of bowling and football-throwing, plus full bar (pronounced FOH-ling)

3901 Christopher, Hamtramck

5 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri., noon-2 a.m. Sat. and noon-10 p.m. Sun.

(313) 264-1288 /

21-plus most of the time. All ages allowed noon-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Gamer’s Gallery

FootPool, a blend of football and pool, plus karaoke, video games and darts

3901 Christopher, Hamtramck (above Fowling)

Just opened Saturday

(313) 458-3710 /

All ages welcome

Nicole Kowalksi, 23, of Livonia celebrates a bull’s-eye and has her photo taken with it at Detroit Axe in Ferndale.

Detroit Axe and the Corner

Ax throwing, board games and a full bar and restaurant

344 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale

5 p.m. Wed.-Mon.

(248) 291-5650 /

15-plus with parent/guardian, otherwise 18-plus

The Hub Stadium

Ax throwing, Bombowling, ping pong, plus two bars with a full menu

2550 Takata, Auburn Hills

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed. and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.

(248) 364-4000 /

16-plus but ages 16-17 must be with an adult