New Academy has the MIUS touch
‘Under Construction’ are words more commonly associated with websites in the snooker industry than ‘state of the art’ tournament and training facilities.
That is not the case in Gloucester, England where the steel frame of the £1.8m Southwest Snooker Academy (SWSA) is in place and scheduled for completion in May this year.
Global-snooker.com were given a tour of the site by Paul Mount, the man behind the 21st century facility.
We asked him why he was ploughing so much money into the Academy.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about trying to make a difference and help to develop the sport. If snooker is better as a result, I will be happy”, he said.
The theory of location, location, location certainly applies here as you can virtually walk to the site from junction 12 of the M5 motorway which gives access to a road network that will have you in London, Manchester and Swansea in under two hours.
Paul Mount is a keen snooker player…with a highest break of 143, he is the captain of Gloucester ‘B’ team and chairman of the local league. He also took part in the 2009 World 6-Reds Championship in Ireland.
“That was great to be involved in. I loved it. I was too busy talking to do any good but I would definitely do it again. I was at least pleased to win frames off all my group opponents and a total of 7 frame in all
“I sense that snooker is getting ready for an upturn in fortunes. Barry Hearn is obviously at the forefront of many changes but with innovations like the 6 reds in Thailand and Ireland and Global Snooker’s ONEFORSEVEN, there is lots going on. I have heard of new clubs opening and old ones reopening their doors, which is positive and a reversal of recent trends”.
Now though, he is taking his interest one or two steps further.
In addition to the Academy he has also set up a ‘stable’ of professional players known as the ‘Pink Army’, because of their pink-backed waistcoats worn in tournament play in an effort to promote the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. This is a cause close to Mount’s heart after the death of his sister to the disease at the age of 39.
“It feels good to be doing something pro-active for such a worthy cause”, he told us.
OnQPromotions is the company specifically set up to manage the careers of professional players including Jimmy White, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Lee, Dominic Dale and Robert Milkins as well as world champions, Mark Davis and Alfie Burden.
Mount’s daughter, Sarah, looks after the day-to-day running of OnQ whilst dad concentrates on the promotion of the company and its players, oversees the construction of the academy and continues as chairman of Mount International Ultra-Sound Services (MIUS), a company he built from scratch twelve years ago into a multi-million pound operation today.
“I had a good job selling equipment into hospitals, but I saw an opportunity and just went for it. Sometimes the time is right to do that. I was flying by the seat of my pants for a while, everything was yes, I can do that.
“Thankfully, all the hard work has paid off which allows me to get involved in projects that I enjoy, like the Academy and managing the boys, hopefully making a difference to their careers and to the wellbeing of the sport in the future”.
The facilities at the SWSA will include a 400+ seater, one table arena, plus eight individual ‘squash court style’ booths, similar to those used by World Snooker for ranking tournament qualification for two decades in Blackpool, Plymouth and Prestatyn.
In addition the 20,000 square feet complex will house a further four ‘practise’ tables, players lounge, media centre and office space.
Facilities for disabled spectators have been made both in the main arena and in two of the booths and it is planned to provide coaching and tournaments for disabled players
Its official opening will take place on June 17 which will also see the inaugural Pink Ribbon Pro-Am break off with 128 players competing for £10,000 prize money.
The Pink Ribbon Pro-Am is an event designed by PIOS Tournament Director, Roland Van Laere which will attract a field of top professionals as well as amateurs that have come through regional qualifying events, with part of the entry fee in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness.
Tickets will also be available for spectators throughout the Pink Ribbon finals weekend 17 – 20th June 2010
Mount said, “It will be a fitting start and certainly something for us to develop and build on in the future as it is planned to be an annual event”.
On the same site is a 106 bedroom hotel and a large, friendly pub making the site ideal for mass participation events such as PIOS and world ranking event qualifying.
“Those things were definitely part of the original plan, but with rumoured changes to the structure we might have to re-think on that score, we await Barry’s [Hearn} plans in the coming weeks”.
After having the plans drawn up over twelve months before, the site was finally cleared in early 2010, before the builders moved on site in early March.
Just seven days after starting work, the frame is in place and Paul excitedly explained it already beginning to take shape.
“You can see the layout, where the booths will be, and the main arena section, I cannot believe how quickly it is coming together”.
Paul Mount is clearly a successful businessman but it is clear that his passion for his chosen sport drives him to want to make a positive difference and leave a legacy from his efforts.
Global-snooker.com applaud his efforts so far and wish him and his team all the best when the doors finally open on his ‘Grand Snooker Design’ in the summer.
We will watch with interest and will head back to Gloucester to show you how the finished article looks and works.