The American Darters Association, Inc. (ADA) was founded in 1990 as the sanctioning body for a nationwide centrally controlled dart league. The ADA operates two types of nationwide dart leagues. One utilizes a unique system called the NEUTRALIZER® allowing members, regardless of their ability, to compete equally. The second is the traditional “scratch” Open League format.
The ADA hosts a national championship each summer in a different host city. Although the 2020 championship, scheduled for St. Louis, was a casualty of COVID-19, the organization is already looking forward to next year’s event, which will be held in Las Vegas.
Sports Destination Management: The American Darters Association represents a sport that people can do in isolation. Do you think there have been people taking it up in quarantine?
Karl Remick: Yes – we’ve seen people discovering the sport, but we’ve also seen people remembering it; they’re dusting off dart board and renewing their memberships. We’re actually getting some people back into the association who used to be members.
Gloria Remick: It’s a really good way to keep the family occupied or for people to keep themselves occupied.
Karl Remick: And when you think about it, the good thing about darts is it is a sport you can do from home that is affordable. A pool table is expensive, and it has to be delivered to your house and you have to find a place for it. But a dartboard you can get for $50 and all you need after that is an eight-foot space between the wall and the throwing line.
SDM: Do you think any of those people who take it up in quarantine will be people you’ll be seeing at tournaments in the future?
Gloria: It depends on the individual and how competitive they might be. We would like to think so, absolutely.
SDM: How many people play darts in the U.S. Any idea?
Karl: The last time we checked, there were 16 million and that was a while ago. The estimate is that there are more dart players in the U.S. than baseball players, and that makes sense. People will play baseball until they reach a certain age and then their bodies start giving out; their knees or their shoulders are bothering them, and they can’t play any longer. In darts, that doesn’t happen. We have people playing who are 76, 77 years old and they’re doing really well.
Gloria: Anyone can play dates; it’s all hand/eye coordination.
SDM: Is there a wheelchair version?
Gloria: Yes, there have been dartboards that have been made for people in wheelchairs.
SDM: You have a championship each year. When is that event held?
Karl: We usually try to put it at the end of July or early August. It runs from Wednesday to Sunday.
SDM: How many people attend?
Karl: Around 700 people, usually.
SDM: When it comes to looking for a championship host venue, what do you specifically look at? Are there special facilities you seek out?
Gloria: What we’ve used have all been hotels, with between 10,000 to 25,000 square feet of space. We need a carpeted floor; you definitely want cushion under your feet because you are standing the whole time.
Karl: We turn it into a pub atmosphere by turning the lights down a little, and we have music playing and beer available. It’s known as the biggest dart party of the year. There’s serious competition but it has a reputation as a fun championship. Sam Adams beer is one of our partners. We want them to be in the dart hall as much as possible but we’re also looking for a place with a pool area where they can have their barbecues, as well as plenty of restaurants, casinos and other fun things.
Gloria: We work with the local convention & visitors bureau and they send us recommendations for things people can do. We like to find a place with things the family can do or that people can do if they’re not in the dart hall.
SDM: What’s the demographic of people who play?
Karl: When we first started, it was predominantly male…
Gloria: But now there are a lot of women. I’d say about 60/40 on the male/female ratio. We offer youth events too.
SDM: Every few years, sports are suggested for the Olympics. Has darts ever been suggested?
Gloria: They actually play darts in the green rooms at the Olympics, but it has never been an Olympic sport. I think in England, they were trying to get it in.
SDM: Is England ground zero for darts?
Karl: Darts are to England what baseball and football are to the U.S. However, soft tip or electronic soft tip darts here in the US prevails over England.
SDM: Are there any real misconceptions about darts?
Gloria: I think when people think about darts and dart leagues, there are a few misconceptions. What we are trying to do is raise the concept and image – and the understanding – of darts. There’s a lot more to it than being in a bar throwing darts – in fact, we have plenty of people who don’t drink alcohol. There’s eye/hand coordination, there’s strategy, there’s a lot involved. There are rules and regulations for dart competitions. At the same time, it’s also something fun you can do with your friends and it’s a great way to meet other people. People have met and gotten married to people they met playing darts – and they’re still married and they’re still playing darts.