By James Vukmirovic
Staff, players and fans have praised the new venue for the bwin Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton.
Wolverhampton City Council and the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) moved the tournament to Aldersley Leisure Village, while regular venue the Civic Hall undergoes long-term repairs until 2020.
Rod Harrington, former world number one and PDC Board member, said he was surprised how smooth the change of venue has been.
He said: “To be quite honest, we thought it was going to be a big change and it wasn’t going to work, but I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by how good this venue is.
“The hall is really good, even though it hasn’t got a balcony like the Civic Hall, which is a more traditional, old-fashioned building that comes with an air of credibility, but coming to a modern place like this has helped.
“The backstage, for example, has been a lot better, I have to say, all the rooms we’ve used are very modern and warm.”
Harrington also spoke about what might be next for the tournament.
“If the Civic hall wasn’t available next year, I’d be perfectly happy to come back here and I think the company would as well,” he said.
“I think when PDC CEO Matt Porter sits down with his soldiers, as you might call them, to go over and analyse the logistics, I think he’ll go “Yeah, I think we can come back here again”.”
PDC Head of Media Dave Allen said work had been done to make the travel to Aldersley easier for fans.
He said: “We’ve worked hard to make sure it’s accessible for fans, we’re doing everything we can to get people out here and the ticket sales are still very strong.
“It is different, as the city centre was great for walking distance and a lot easier with transport links, but we’ve been able to make this work really well.”
Allen also spoke about how the players have taken to playing at Aldersley.
He said: “Players who are new to the event have really embraced the stage and I think everyone has come off feeling really positive about the stage and the experience.”
The tournament is run by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and features players from the PDC and the British Darts Organisation (BDO), who qualify for the Grand Slam through events such as the World Championships, World Matchplay and other PDC and BDO events.
Wolverhampton has been home to the Grand Slam of Darts since 2007 when the first tournament took place at the Civic Hall.
For two-time PDC World Champion Gary Anderson, the change in venue was a real change for him.
He said: “I didn’t like it, I don’t like change as I’m kind of old school. This was my very first tournament that I played in under the PDC and why it’s my favourite, because I played in it twice when I was in the BDO, and you just get used to the Civic.
“You know the area and where the hotel is. I used to walk up to the venue, play my darts and walk back down, stop in a shop on the way back to the hotel, that was my routine.”
But he has come to appreciate Aldersley as the tournament has gone on.
He said: “Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and I’m getting used to it. I arrived here early Saturday morning with Michael Smith, just to see where we were coming in, and I was thinking “Ah no, it’s a Sports hall”, but they’ve done well. It’s all blacked off at the sides and it looks like a good Darts hall.”
One of the main concerns about the move was how it would affect crowds, but Jack Strickland, who attended on Tuesday, thinks the change has not been noticeable.
He said: “It’s a great atmosphere. It brings so many different visitors to another part of the city and showcasing Wolverhampton as a city that can grow.
I’ve been to this venue a few times and I walked in today and had to stop and think “Wow!”. The venue looks different, it looks amazing, it looks bigger and it’s amazing to see how many people are in one place at one time.
“It’s great to see that they’ve stuck with Wolverhampton, instead of going back to other venues, and it’s great to see Wolverhampton as a city of darts.”