I had the distinct pleasure of having a look around the South West Snooker Academy, which is based on Waterwells in Quedgeley. What was most amazing was the fact that this world-class centre of excellence is a relatively unknown gem in the local landscape.
Whilst not an out-and-out enthusiast, I have been known to stay up to the early hours watching the finals of the World championships and when I stay in places with Snooker Tables I do like to have a “knock around” (which is very appropriate because I am rubbish). So it was one of those visits that I was really looking forward to, especially if it turned out to be somewhere I could go and play occasionally.
What I was not prepared for was the scale of the place. Firstly on a physical level, its got 13 top quality Tables and a finals arena which seats 400 people and has all the lighting and rigging for TV broadcast, which it does on a regular basis. Then you look at where it sits on the international stage, it is the best quality facility of its type in Europe and there is only one other comparable venue in the world. They have students coming over on scholarships and in the 2010/2011 season, 90 of the professional visited it. It has glowing testimonials from the likes of Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry, Terry Griffiths, Steve Davis and Peter Ebdon which are names that many non-snooker fans will have heard of.
I found it absolutely stunning that such a high quality place has been right on our doorstep for the past year and in comparison few locals know about it. The staff at the Academy are working to change this by engaging with local groups and they have given free tickets to the likes of Carers Gloucestershire which I think is fantastic.
They have got events coming up that should be really good, such as this weekend (7-9 Oct) is the Players Tour Championship and 6-9 Nov is the UK Championship Qualifiers. Your looking at around 80 professionals coming to Quedgeley to gain their places in the Uk Championchips. Seriously, just how cool is that.
I also liked the Bar which was upstairs, at first glance I didn’t get it, then I realised, It’s a snooker table, and very well executed. You will have to go and see what I mean! It also overlooks the main arena, so an ideal oppotunity to have a beer and muse over why the chaps playing are just so much better than I am!
I am really quite excited (you couldn’t tell, could you) that we have such a facility on our door-step. Granted it’s a bit hidden away, but everyone there is really friendly and if you just want to have a look round, the staff are more than willing to give you a guided tour. You can go and use the facilities yourself and join as a member. You can even book a game with a pro to “test your skills”. As for me, im looking forward to buying some tickets and seeing Snooker up close and personal!