Swell Spark is once again expanding its locations, but this time Matt Baysinger and his team are scaling into smaller markets in the founder’s home state of Kansas.
Swell Spark — a Kansas City-based entertainment company that creates shared experiences through escape rooms, axe throwing and indoor mini golf — is set to open a Blade & Timber in Lawrence, Kansas, later this month and a Sinkers Lounge in Manhattan, Kansas, in mid-October.
“Home is special,” said Baysinger, who founded Swell Spark in 2014. “We have always had success in places like Lawrence, Wichita, Omaha and Honolulu — places that aren’t in the top 20 or 30 biggest cities. We’re doubling down on some of the traditionally underserved entertainment markets.”
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Largest entertainment space in Manhattan
Sinkers Lounge, an indoor minigolf and tabletop golf bar and restaurant, is set to be Manhattan’s largest entertainment venue, Baysinger said, noting that the space located at 100 Manhattan Town Center is about 10,000 square feet.
“It will be the only entertainment venue that can host more than 40 people at a time,” Baysinger continued. “We’re right next to where Manhattan hosts their conventions and conferences, as well as football and basketball games for [Kansas State University].”
Manhattan — with its population just under 58,000 — is the smallest town in which Swell Spark has opened one of its concepts. It will be Sinkers Lounge’s second location, with its first opening in Kansas City in 2022.
“This location in Manhattan is a test,” Baysinger said. “If we find that we have a higher level of success in Manhattan, then I think that tells us that we can pretty much go anywhere.”
Sinkers Lounge’s Manhattan location is expected to feature nine mini golf holes and 18 tabletop golf holes. Similar to Kansas City’s location, some of the holes will include nods to local landmarks and iconic attractions in Manhattan.
“The neat thing about our tabletops and our minigolf is that we fabricate them in-house with Sandbox by Swell Spark,” Baysinger explained of the company’s own production operation. “That allows us to be hyperlocal and hyper-specific. With tabletop being a novelty, brand new concept for almost everyone who plays it, anything we can do to pay homage to the cities we’re working with is a win.”
The new venue will also have a second-floor terrace party room, bar and restaurant seating.
Click here to read more about Sinkers Lounge.
Reopening Blade & Timber
Blade & Timber is no stranger to the Lawrence community. After opening the axe throwing business in September 2018, the building that housed Blade & Timber in Lawrence burned down in October 2019.
“The devastation was short-lived,” Baysinger recalled. “We ended up having our three or four best months in company history tight after that. By the time the insurance and our landland had sorted out a plan to go forward and reopen Blade & Timber Lawrence, the pandemic hit. At that point, rather than rebuild, we took a check for the cost of the store.”
Blade & Timber Lawrence is reopening across the street from its original location. The new building, located at 722 Massachusetts St., was built in 1866 for a saddlery and harness shop named Sands & Co. It later became a wholesale cigar factory until the Lawrence Daily Journal-World took over the space from 1902 to 1954, according to Explore Lawrence.
The building has also been occupied by two furniture companies and most recently, a bookstore, espresso bar and art gallery known as Signs of Life.
“This building has this really cool history, and I’m feeling very excited to be a part of this revitalization happening downtown,” Baysinger shared. “… As someone who has been a part of the Lawrence community for the past 20 years, it feels good to be able to build something that adds to the downtown and provides fun for all the families, college students and residents who live here. I’ve been invested in the Kansas City business community for a while, but this is really an opportunity to dive into the Lawrence business community as well.”
In Spring 2024, Baysinger and his team plan to add to Blade & Timber Lawrence with a Sinkers Lounge in the same building, he teased.
“Swell Spark has never combined two of our concepts into one single space with shared facilities,” Baysinger said. “A lot of the folks who do Sinkers are the same people who do Blade, so we think it is going to be a really neat offering for our community.”