First we had the Hurricane, then the Whirlwind, now snooker has the Calypso Cove, as the Dafabet English Open rolled into Barnsley yesterday.
A far cry from the Crucible Theatre – the venue several miles away in neighbouring Sheffield, steeped in snooker history – or even the Barbican, the adopted home of the UK Championship in York.
But the Barnsley Metrodome is the distinctive setting for the Dafabet English Open, which runs this week, featuring 131 players from around the world.
It’s a venue which is familiar to players, the Metrodome has staged numerous qualifiers in its vast sports hall over the years, but this is the first time it has been graced with a ranking tournament.
Signs have sprung up around the former mining town over the last week, pointing out the English Open is here.
Yet, as anyone with children in South Yorkshire will tell you, the Metrodome – sat on the hillside overlooking Oakwell – is more famous for being the home of the popular Calypso Cove waterpark.
“Yorkshire is a snooker hotbed,” said World Snooker boss Barry Hearn. “We know many of our most passionate fans come from the county.
“It’s marvellous to be able to bring a major sporting event to Barnsley.”
While there were plenty of empty seats for yesterday’s opening games, a decent crowd had ventured out with seven match tables on show. Maybe, there were a few lost souls, who like me, nearly took the wrong door and headed for the swimming pool.
First up was Peter Lines, the World Seniors champion from Leeds, who had admitted before a cue was lifted in anger that he was concerned about the venue’s conditions. Even a 4-2 defeat to world No 7 Barry Hawkins – when the sporting Gods seemed to conspire against him with cruel kisses and flukes – could not sway Lines’s verdict.
“It was good, I certainly enjoyed it,” said the 47-year-old. “It was a little bit hot, but the conditions were good and the table played really nice.
“It was a good set-up. I was a bit dubious on what it would be like here, but I thought it was great, I really enjoyed it.”
Lines found himself 2-0 down in their best-of-seven contest, Hawkins pinching a gruelling second frame – which lasted over 51 minutes – on the final black.
Breaks of 30 and 43 were enough to drag it back to 2-2, and a 47 break, leaving Hawkins snookered on the final red, put Lines in charge.
“He’s settled down now,” said Lines’s son, Oliver, himself a fellow professional, sitting alongside me in the arena.
But a brutal piece of good fortune saw the 2013 World Championship finalist escape the snooker and somehow fluke the red to edge back in front.
Lines had his chances to level the match, his moment coming when he missed a pink to the centre to stall on a promising break of 27. “That’s snooker, sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Lines, back on the professional tour this year after competing as an amateur last season. “Today wasn’t my day.
“When you play players like Barry, you can’t afford to not have the rub of the green. I did quite well to hang in there,” admitted Lines, who returned from a swift trip home to Leeds to watch son Oliver suffer a 4-1 defeat at the hands of world No 13 Ali Carter in a late-night game.
It was also a late finish for York rookie Ashley Hugill, 23, who gained an impressive 4-2 win over veteran Nigel Bond.
Sanderson Lam, 23, was the third player from Leeds’s Northern Snooker Centre in action yesterday, but he lost the final three frames to slip to a 4-3 defeat to China’s Chen Zifan. It was a similar story for Sheffield’s Adam Duffy, 27, who lost to Jimmy Robertson 4-2.
Elsewhere, John Higgins scraped through 4-3 against Gateshead’s Elliot Slessor, and it was the same scoreline as Judd Trump edged out Robbie Williams. But there were 4-0 wins for Stuart Bingham, against Lee Walker, and Irishman Mark Allen beat Jimmy White.
Today, Doncaster’s Chris Keogan, 25, will be looking to cause a splash when he faces world No 2 Ding Junhui at the Metrodome, while Pickering’s Paul Davison meets John Astley.
Tonight, it’s the turn of Leeds potter David Grace, who takes on former world champion Mark Williams.