This year I travelled for the first time to Blackpool for the World Matchplay. I finally wanted to have a look at
the famous Empress Ballroom and follow the after the World Championship most important PDC Major live. Blackpool
itself is a slightly ageing seaside resort on the Irish Sea.
Ageing doesn't mean it is not nice here- it looks like a lot was done the last years to keep Blackpool attractive.
The promenade which stretches till Fleetwood (where Wes Newton lives) was modernised - but for me something green
is missing it's all stone.
-br/>From everywhere in the town you can see the Blackpool's landmark - the Blackpool Tower which was built in 1894
after the model of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It's a little bit over 158 m and it took four year's to build it.
It cost the at that time enormous sum of 300 000 pound. The tower is not freestanding as the Eiffel Tower. It
has got a foundation which is hidden in a building. Because the tower was not really painted in the early years
after 30 years it begun to corrode and people discussed whether it would not be better to demolish is...Today it is
painted red and a new coating will take around seven years. Today the tower belongs to a building complex with
several attractions. It can be illuminated and on the evening of the birth of Kate's baby it shone in baby blue.
Some dart players even wear it on their dart shirts!
The Empress Ballroom really is as impressive as everybody is telling. It is a part of the Winter Gardens which was
built in 1898 und originally was called Stardust Garden. From beginning it was designed as a ballroom - at this
time one of largest in the world. But today other events take place there as well. The political parties have their
conferences there, there are still dancing contests and balls and once a year for twenty years now the World
Matchplay is played.
As the room was originally a ballroom it has got a beautiful parquet floor out of four different woods and it has
a famous golden shimmering ceiling. As the Empress Ballroom is a graded building there were problems to build in
some kind of air conditioning and crowd and dart players sweated like pigs, the darts players even more due to the
spotlights on the stage. Dennis Smith even had a qualm some years ago on stage.
This year they've found a solution and the temperatures are really agreeable. In the press room in the Diana
Princess of Wales suite just behind the stage the air conditioning system almost blows you from the chairs.
The Empress Ballroom is a comparatively small venue and many spectators sit on the balconies. It's a cosy venue and
everybody is near the stage and you have a good view in the action from everywhere. A lot of players sign autographs
after the matches beside the stage. At the beginning all the stairs and stairways are a little bit confusing -
till now I've no idea how to get up to the upper balconies.
In the first years of the tournament it was not too easy to fill the venue with spectators, today it is no problem
any longer - at least all the floor seating was filled from the beginning. The PDC had chosen Blackpool and the
Empress Ballroom to create a counterpart to the World Championship in London in winter - some kind of
summer/holiday tournament and is really summer this year, sunshine, blue sky and around 30 degrees Celsius.
A little bit the holiday atmosphere seems to transfer on the players as well. Most look more serene and more
relaxed when they walk on stage then usually.