When driving down I-75 in Detroit, it’s hard to miss the epic lion mural on the side of the Russell Industrial Plant. The Detroit Chimera Graffiti Mural is in fact, the largest mural in the state of Michigan (but not for long) and is a roadside spectacle for all drivers on the busy expressway. However, it’s what’s behind the mural that caught my attention. Hidden behind the iconic painting is a unique battlefield that is bound to spark your curiosity.
Let me introduce to you, the Detroit Dart Club (DDC). For generations, Nerf guns have captured the imagination of children (of all ages), allowing them to stage heroic battles from the comfort of their living rooms. Now, with the help of the DDC’s founder, Connor McCaffey, these Nerf gun soldiers have a large, complex playground, tucked away in the city of Detroit. We met up with Connor and came up with five things you should know about the Detroit Dart Club.
From the Living Room to an Industrial Arena
If you have kids, know kids or work with someone that acts like a kid, you’ve encountered a Nerf gun. These extraordinary dart slingers are the foundation for this new game and are what brings the battlefield to life. Each team chooses from an arsenal of Nerf guns, which come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Whether you use the Thunderbow, Rapid Strike, Cyclone Shock, Duel Mega Magnuses or prefer to BYONG (Bring your own Nerf gun), DDC provides a video-game-like atmosphere for you to play in. The arena has foam flooring for James Bond rolls, tires and barriers to crouch behind and bases to “respawn” from after you’re hit. The DDC has taken a common living room activity and turned it into a competitive sport, fully equipped with protective goggles, rules, scoreboards and an endless supply of darts. Enter at your own risk.
Putting the Team in Team Slayer
The DDC is the perfect destination for team building outings, birthday parties or just battling your friends! They offer three different gameplays: Team Elimination, Humans vs. Zombies and the most popular, Team Slayer. In Team Slayer, Nerf gun soldiers try to shoot down the opposing team’s targets. If an enemy dart hits you, you must “respawn” by retreating to your base and running back out. The team that knocks down the opposing team’s targets the fastest, wins.
What’s more, if you shoot down targets in record time, your team’s picture and time are posted on the DDC website. Most groups play a combination of the three gameplays offered. When a group books a timeslot, they rent out the whole place and are even allowed to bring their own food and beverages. It’s a perfect venue for working on your teambuilding skills (while taking out some healthy aggression).
Two years ago, McGaffey and his buddy –both in their twenties – bought some Nerf guns that were on sale at Target. They invited a few friends to test them out, and soon, the battle escalated into an all-out Nerf gun war. After a successful first round, this Nerf war became a weekly event, and the seed for the Detroit Dart Club was born. “We called it Nerf Slayer,” said McGaffey, “and it got to the point where I didn’t know half the people coming over.”
McGaffey liked the idea of a Nerf business but didn’t know how he could make it work. After some urging from friends, Connor rented a space, which was previously an after-hours biker bar, and got to work. He moved into this new location in July of 2014, cleaned it up, put down some foam flooring and built the arena. A month of work went into the changeover and construction of the Detroit Dart Club, and it opened up in August of 2014.
“When it first opened, I didn’t know what I was doing,” said McGaffey. “It was a lot of trial and error. I just had a general idea of what I wanted to do.” McGaffey graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Kinesiology. He then worked as a tech in a physical therapy department and realized that it wasn’t for him. After working in retail and other odd jobs, McGaffey officially made the DDC his fulltime gig as of January 1. “December got really busy. We had a couple of Quicken Loans groups that had a great time, and we took off from there.” All marketing efforts for the DDC have been through their social media accounts and by word of mouth from past customers. He reports having no negative feedback thus far and that all groups have had a fun time. The DDC is averaging about ten groups each week and is looking forward to a busy summer.
Rambo Nights and Franchise Rights
The Detroit Dart Club is another great representation of entrepreneurship that is happening all over the city of Detroit. The opportunities are there for people to turn their ideas into reality. McGaffey has big dreams for DDC. He plans on adding video monitors to show replays, WIFI and other amenities. He also plans to implement league nights, tournaments and workout sessions (which he titled “Rambo Night”), as well as movie nights, charitable fundraisers and open play nights. The Detroit Dart Club is the first of its kind in the United States and is the latest buzz from Nerf Bloggers, forums and social media accounts. McGaffey’s longer-term goal is to open up a second location and start spreading the game across the country. Recently, the New York Dart Zone just opened up on Long Island by two guys that dropped by the DDC to check it out. The game is spreading, and we suggest you go check it out!