World Snooker Championship: 3,000 seat purpose-built 'Billiardrome' plan could keep tournament in Sheffield

A purpose-built 3,000-seat ‘Billiardrome’ arena could be the answer to keeping the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.

By Robert Cumber
Monday, 25th April 2022, 7:06 pm

The plans were first drawn up some 20 years ago by architect James Burland, the man behind the City of Manchester Stadium, but have resurfaced amid growing discontent from some professional snooker players about the current set-up for the sport’s premier event.

Mr Burland believes the new venue would give the annual showcase the setting it deserves, providing a huge step-up in capacity without sacrificing the atmosphere that makes the Crucible such a spine-tingling place in which to play and watch snooker.

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Architect James Burland, who designed the Billiardrome (pic: James Burland)

Built in the round, to guarantee the best atmosphere, it would feature a practice area downstairs, where fans could watch the stars warming up. It could include a snooker museum and be flanked by a 300-room hotel.

When the snooker is not being staged there, the Billiardrome could be converted into a 1,500 seat conference centre or be used to host other big sporting events, like badminton, table tennis and even sumo wrestling.

Purpose-built Billiardrome snooker arena could be a second Crucible

And it could work in addition to The Crucible, which Mr Burland describes as snooker’s spiritual home, in the same way you have Centre Court and the No.1 Court at Wimbledon.

How the 3,000-seat Billiardrome arena proposed for Sheffield, to help keep the World Snooker Championship in the city, could look (pic: Burland Aura Planning 2022)

“This could be spectacularly good for the sport and ensure snooker’s flagship event stays in Sheffield,” said Mr Burland.

“It’s the big, sensational building that’s needed to match the scale of the tournament, and it would guarantee the really intense atmosphere that the players and the fans want.

"It wouldn’t be too expensive to build, either. You’re certainly not talking about mega bucks.”

How the 3,000-seat Billiardrome arena proposed for Sheffield, to help keep the World Snooker Championship in the city, could look (pic: Burland Aura Planning 2022)

Neil Robertson last week questioned The Crucible’s suitability to host the Snooker World Championship, saying it lacked the atmosphere of other tournaments like the Masters, and he suggested using a second Crucible.

Other players to speak critically of the 980-capacity Crucible include Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire and Judd Trump, though Anthony McGill and Sheffield’s Yan Bingtao are among those who have defended the venue.

When does Sheffield’s deal to host the World Snooker Championship end, and what happens next?

Sheffield City Council has a contract to host the World Snooker Championship until 2027.

How the 3,000-seat Billiardrome snooker arena proposed for Sheffield, shown here flanked by a hotel, could look (pic: Burland Aura Planning 2022)

When plans for the Billiardrome first emerged, Sheffield was facing rival bids from other cities including Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham to host the event.

Now, the biggest competition could be from China, where the Yushan Sports Center, which is said to have been modelled on the Crucible and can accommodate up to 4,000 spectators, was recently completed.

Mr Burland believes the Billiardrome, developed in conjunction with businessman and fellow snooker enthusiast Peter Bainbridge, was a victim of political changes two decades ago, including the demise of key backer Sheffield First for Investment.

He says there was interest in the arena around the world, from Bath to Bahrain, but he wants it to be in Sheffield and is in talks with Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, who he says is interested.

The Star has approached both the World Snooker Tour and Sheffield Council for a response.

How the 3,000-seat Billiardrome arena proposed for Sheffield, to help keep the World Snooker Championship in the city, could look (pic: Burland Aura Planning 2022)