New Boise Social Club to Combine Axe Throwing, Ping Pong, Cocktails and More 

click to enlarge For Base Camp's co-owners, axe throwing is already a backyard pastime.

Courtesy Base Camp Pong + Axe

For Base Camp's co-owners, axe throwing is already a backyard pastime.

Keith Phillips and Daniel Baker, co-owners of The Lucky Dog Tavern, have a lot on their plates for the next few months. In addition to finding a new venue for The Lucky Dog following the building's sale to the Boise Police Department, the pair has a grand plan for a new social club starring not only beer and wine, a restaurant, cocktails and ping-pong, but the up-and-coming sport of axe-throwing.

Dubbed Base Camp Pong + Axe, the club will open in the former home of The Tailgate bar and grill as early as January 2019. According to Phillips, the venue's abundant space made it perfect for axe lanes, and he and Baker jumped on the chance to introduce a sport they both love—they have a homemade target in their own backyard—to Boise audiences.

"It's certainly an addictive sport, I'll tell you that," said Phillips. "Everyone that's come over, whether they have any interest in throwing an axe or not, once they watch someone do it, then they want to give it a try. And once they give it a try, then they don't give up until they stick the axe."

Baker's childhood friend Matt Wilson, a Toronto native, was largely responsible for the boom in axe throwing leagues across Canada and the U.S., and he walked Phillips and Baker through the process of adding axe lanes to Base Camp. There will be eight lanes in total, which groups can reserve online with 48-hour notice. The experience costs $37 per person, and includes 1-2.25 hours in the lane, with more time given to larger parties.

click to enlarge BASE CAMP PONG + AXE
  • Base Camp Pong + Axe
"Every group has an axe guide, so it's not something where you just go and do what you want to do," Phillips explained. "There's a guide there that gives you the instructions on how to do it, shows you the safe way to throw and actually monitors your group the entire time."

When groups show up at Base Camp, they'll check in, then sign waivers and receive custom-printed cloth wristbands that tell the company's bartenders they're throwing axes.

"As long as you've got that wristband on, you won't be served liquor," Phillips said, adding that beer and wine will still be freely available, a theme common among axe-throwing venues nationwide. "Most places that we're aware of—and there are tons of them out there—either sell beer or allow bring-your-own. A lot of axe-throwing places are just bring-your-own-beer, which is even less control over it than what we're doing."

Once banded, throwers will get a safety briefing from their guides, spend time practicing throws of the 1.5-pound axes under close supervision, then wrap up with a group tournament that will likely end with a trip to the nearby bar.

At first glance, the intersection of alcohol and sharp objects seems problematic, but Phillips said the hard liquor and axe throwing parts of the business have been carefully separated, and local authorities have approved the concept.

"We spoke to everyone," Phillips said. "We spoke to the police at all different levels, we spoke to the city, we spoke to our insurance company, and they all view axe throwing basically as darts. It's the same sort of concept as far as they look at it."

In addition to the axe throwing lanes, Base Camp will have eight ping pong tables, with five of them sequestered in a designated ping pong lounge. Players can claim a table for half and hour or an hour at the cost of $12-$23, depending on the length of play and time of day. Peak hours, like Friday nights, will be most expensive, but no matter what the time Base Camp staff will be on hand to chase escaping balls.

Supplementing the activities and bar space will be a local-focused restaurant, helmed by Chef Sean Cobos with input from Michelin-starred Chef Peter Rudolph, whose interest was piqued by the Base Camp's unique concept. Phillips said the two will be "taking the food up a notch" from the typical sports bar experience.

The entire venue is for adults 18 and older, and will become 21-plus only during certain hours. To add to the Boise vibe, Base Camp graffiti-style art by local collective Sector Seventeen will fill the space.

"We want this to be a very iconically Boise place," said Phillips.

Base Camp isn't the only axe throwing game in town—indoor axe throwing venue Section 37 Axe Room is set to open this month on Overland Road in West Boise—but it's the only one where visitors can drink, dine, hurl axes and hoist paddles all under one roof. 
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