Expansion plans for snooker’s Crucible



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The Crucible looking for Saudi investment Image: The Crucible Theatre, Chris Downer, CC BY-SA 2.0

Saudi Arabia could help to pay for a multi-million-pound expansion of The Crucible theatre in Sheffield, England or the construction of a new home for the Snooker World Championship.

The Telegraph said promoter Barry Hearn has suggested that the Saudis could bankroll a new development in Sheffield rather than trying to poach the event for themselves.

Hearn has publicly threatened to take the tournament to the Middle East or China unless a new 3,000-seater venue is built in Sheffield. But he has now indicated that the Saudis could help expand the 980-capacity Crucible.

Plans developed by British architect James Burland, who is best known for Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, have been rekindled for the construction of a 3,000-seater arena across the road from the existing venue.

A bridge would connect the two venues and open up the possibility for the World Championship to be staged across both facilities.

The proposed site for the new arena is the O2 Academy – the former Roxy nightclub – which was forced to close in September because of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete concerns.

The Crucible has a contract to host the World Snooker Championship until 2027, which will mark its fiftieth anniversary at the theatre.

The Telegraph further stated that last month, Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA), announced Riyadh Season had become an official partner of the Snooker World Championship.

He said, “It would be a pleasure to have everything in our country and we support what happens in other countries, also. That means, maybe one day, we’ll do something huge here in England.”

Burland and fellow snooker enthusiast Peter Bainbridge, with whom the architect collaborated on the new venue design concept, found during the design process that 3,000 seats was the maximum capacity for such an arena that would allow those attending a snooker match to follow the action.

Bainbridge has estimated the minimum cost of a facility at around £50 million, a figure that could rise were additional features, such as a hotel, to be incorporated into the scheme.

Hearn said: “I’m aware of the building. It’s an interesting building. And, like everything else, these are the types of things I’d love to sit down and discuss.”

He has told Sheffield council it has a year to provide a 3,000-seat arena or risk World Snooker walking away.

The chief executive of the council, Kate Josephs, told Telegraph Sport: “Sheffield is the home of snooker, much like Wimbledon is to tennis and Aintree is to the Grand National. The World Snooker Championship and Sheffield go hand in hand.

“We know what the tournament means to the people of Sheffield, the players that come to compete and all the fans that watch the tournament across the globe. We have created a sporting legacy here in the city and we want that to continue for generations to come.

“In terms of the snooker, we have a contract until 2027 that we are delivering, and our priority is to ensure that everyone has the best possible experience here in Sheffield, whether that be the players, the visitors or our local residents. We are in regular contact with World Snooker Tour and meet with them before, during and after each tournament – we will continue to have conversations with them about a way forward that works for us all.”

Sheffield has recently completed the building of the Canon Medical Arena to host the city’s basketball and ice hockey teams.

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