Columnists

Dave McNally: Lakeside still the spiritual home of darts for me

By Dave McNally
11 DECEMBER 2016 • 6:44PM 

Surely it can’t just be me? There was a certain glow about watching the Winmau World Masters last weekend at the Lakeside.

This isn’t a debate about whether the PDC or the BDO are the best, that’s been done a million times.

It’s more to do with the venues and how, despite the popularity of darts as a spectator sport has increased and various venues have been introduced, the Lakeside, to me at least, will forever be the spiritual home for darts.

And it’s not just nostalgia clouding my judgement.

I’ve been to a good few venues watching darts over the years and often they have big crowds, but are soulless venues.

Sheffield’s Motorpoint for example, is like thousands of people getting drunk in the cinema, it just doesn’t work.

The same can be argued for the Echo Arena in Liverpool, loads of noise and singing, but it’s all spectacularly dull.

Blackpool. Now this is a good venue for darts. The Winter Gardens, mainly one levelled seating, near to the action and within touching distance of the players.

It’s got character befitting of a proper sporting venue, creates a superb atmosphere and allows the players to mingle with the fans after matches.

It all adds to the sense of theatre and apart from a select few at the front as in the usual venues, the Winter Gardens leaves the spectator feeling as though they have been part of the event, rather than a casual observer.

The Lakeside in my eyes was made for darts. Large, round tables for seating on the ground level, offering perfect views of the stage.

Plus, a chance to get to know strangers on the tables, who by the end of a session are one of your mates for the rest of the week.

The layered balconies are even close to the action, not high up in the gods with no chance of seeing anything that is going on.

Atmosphere is created because of the low ceilings and its original design for bands and cabaret acts, allowing the acoustics to resonate in the venue, plus the bars are tucked away but allow for watching of the arrows while in the queue.

The newer venues are concrete palaces of identikit design, the equivalent of Bolton Wanderers or Huddersfield Town football stadia for those who have followed their team or go there regularly.

Unique to nobody and offering little in the way of creating a superb sporting venue with the emphasis on the experience, settling rather for a cram them in at all cost approach and an ‘it’ll do’ mentality.

I know the Lakeside wasn’t built for darts and either were a lot of the other venues, but surely a bit more thought could go in to where the events are going to be held.

Take it around the country by all means, but let’s not sacrifice the experience by filling characterless bleak venues week in week out.

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