Pool tables, a fixture in rec rooms and basements everywhere, are turning into a lot of money – if sports event planners know how to work the angles.
The stats back it up, too.
According to at least one report, pool table sales were expected to clock in around $240 million, according to an SFIA report. The overall sporting goods profile remains strong, with industry sales growth of about 6.8%, compared to the U.S. economic growth rate of 4.3%.
Destinations are seeing the growth. Erie, Pennsylvania, recently hosted the Pennsylvania State 8-Ball Tournament at the Bayfront Convention Center, and saw more than 1,300 (!) singles players, including those with national reputations.
So what is it about pool that makes it so appealing? It’s easy to learn, it’s readily available, it’s non-impact and non-intimidating – and often, it’s free. Add to that the low-stress factor of learning during a party or barbecue and you have a reputation for success. It’s available to men, women and juniors, as well as those with physical challenges.
It’s also worth a surprising amount of money for event planners.
Erie Sports Commission officials said the three-day event in 2018 generated an economic impact of $1.2 million to Erie. The 2019 event equaled that amount. (Worth noting: The first state pool tournament held in Erie in 1982 at the city’s Uhtman Choir on Peach Street attracted about 60 pool players on four tables. Nine different Erie venues have hosted the state tournament. Now, with 2,600 sanctioned players competing over the course of three days, it’s a major event.)
Inside the convention center’s grand ballroom, players were cued up on Friday for singles competition in 32 different brackets within four divisions. There are 202 tables set up for the three-day competition, which is hosted annually by Warner Coin Machine.
“When we started this 37 years ago, it was just a dream that we would be having an event like this today. This is the fourth-largest pool tournament in the world and it’s held in Erie,” Tournament Director Ed Borgia told GoErie.com. “This tournament has grown every year.”
What’s more, notes Emily Biddle of Erie Sports Commission, the sport’s appeal is broad – and worldwide.
We hosted the World Juniors Pool Tourney here in 2016 and 17 and had youth teams travel all the way from New Zealand to compete. It’s incredible to see the athletes in these non-mainstream sports have the opportunity to show off their skills.”
Pool is gaining popularity. Snooker (a remarkably similar cue sport) was one of the sports vying for inclusion in the Paris 2024 Olympics (it didn’t make it but that didn’t stop it from trying). Two of the major bodies that govern billiards in the U.S. and internationally — the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and the World Confederation of Billiards — were a part of the campaign after being shut out from Tokyo 2020 as well.
Across the U.S., other destinations are hosting table sports, including tournaments sanctioned by the American Poolplayers Association, including locations as varied as Las Vegas, Tampa and St. Louis. The United States Billiard Association, meanwhile, the national governing body for carom billiards, had multiple tournaments coming up in various major cities in the U.S.
For those interested in catching a stateside glimpse of it, the United States Snooker Association (USSA) is headquartered in Berkeley, California. USSA is a member of the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF), the world governing body of non-professional English billiards and snooker and is also affiliated to the American CueSports Alliance (ACS), which also represents the USSA in the Pan-American Billiard Confederation, the continental governing body for billiard sports throughout the Americas.
The USSA organizes the annual United States National Snooker Championship, with the winner and runner-up having the opportunity to represent the United States in the following IBSF World Snooker Championships. It also sponsors the United States Snooker Association Tour. The Pan-American Snooker Championships was held in Houston from January 30-February 3.