Highway to the Demolition Zone

Nathan Calkins // The Torch
Shannon Kohler obliterates a mason jar inside the largest room at Demolition Zone. The new Eugene business seeks to capitalize on the growing popularity of so-called “rage rooms” in the United States and worldwide.

As midterms rapidly approach, many college students seek ways to cope with the rigorous and ever-present feeling of stress. Some students go out drinking, others take long and grueling hikes, still others find solace in yoga and meditation. A new Eugene business adds one more option for students looking to blow off steam by letting customers smash a copier with a baseball bat.

Demolition Zone is the brainchild of Helen and Jeremy Urban, Lane Community College graduates and long-time Eugenians who quit their jobs to open the no-holds-barred rage room on Franklin Boulevard in the Glenwood area. For a base price of $20, customers can select a variety of breakable objects — ranging from coffee mugs and VHS tapes to wide-screen televisions and archaic copy machines — with a variety of weapons, including hammers, baseball bats, golf clubs and crowbars.

Jeremy Urban first became inspired after viewing a video of a rage room in Japan.

“I couldn’t tell you exactly where it came from,” Urban said. “I just knew a business like this could be unique and successful, so we went with it.”

Jeremy found the inspiration, but he credits his wife Helen for bringing the inspiration into reality.

“I just got tired of working a desk job, though I guess I’m still technically sitting at desk right now,” Helen Urban said. “But we want to give people something new and different to do. There’s nothing else like this around here.”

Nathan Calkins // The Torch
Shannon Kohler swings a Guitar Hero video game controller at a VHS tape as aggressive rap music blares over loudspeakers. Demolition Zone, located on Franklin Boulevard, aims to provide a safe space to release stress through controlled rage.

After signing a release form and donning a safety outfit consisting of a one-piece chemical suit, chest plate and paintball mask, customers are led into a room piled high with shelves of fragile objects organized by size. Customers then customize their demolition experience based on what they find to be most satisfying. One patron, Shannon Kohler, chose a few small dishes, some VHS tapes, a Guitar Hero video game controller, a full-length dressing room mirror and a solid wood nutcracker wearing an Oregon State football jersey.

“You know, we’re in Eugene, so I thought it would be appropriate to destroy a Beaver mascot,” Kohler said, adding “Go Ducks!”

After filling a bin with breakables, customers are then walked into one of three rooms designated for destruction. The rooms are unsurprisingly bare, with plain wood floors and white walls, one of which has Demolition Zone’s safety rules spray painted on it. Against the rear wall is a rack of melee weapons: baseball bats, golf clubs, crowbars, cast-iron pans and the granddaddy of them all, a ten-pound sledgehammer. After getting settled, Jeremy Urban asks the customers if they would like a specific music playlist put on during their session — Kohler asked for a Pandora station built around rapper Tech N9ne — then sets them loose to purge their rage.

Nathan Calkins // The Torch
Avid Duck fan Shannon Kohler drives a wooden Oregon State University nutcracker head through a dressing room mirror. Kohler said she uses the space to work through her anger.

Within moments of smashing her first coffee mug with an aluminum bat, Kohler was cackling with joy and eagerly setting up another dish to break. She repeatedly went back to the wall of weapons to test all of her options in order to settle on a favorite.

“I like all of them, honestly,” Kohler said after her session. “But I really liked using the hammer, and definitely the steel pipe.”

According to Jeremy Urban, Kohler’s reaction is typical of most of Demolition Zone’s customers.

“Everybody’s stoked on it,” Urban said. “Everyone leaves here with a smile on their face and they’re always excited.”