The room at Aldersley Leisure Village was packed full of hundreds upon hundreds of fans visitors from across the region and beyond, cheering wildly in vivid clothing as the two professional players walked through the audience to square off.
Rows upon rows of visitors waved their jugs of beer around, along with foam fingers, as the players took to the stage for the first time,
Loud, booming dance music filled the auditorium as the action got underway at the 32-player, nine-day tournament which hopes to hit the bullseye on its return to the Black Country.
A sea of vibrant colours could be seen by everyone. as the Visitors who rushed in to see the action start dressed up in a series of weird and wonderful costumes including Snow White and 10 dwarfs – breaking a little from tradition – a pack of Oompa Loompas in the full orange face-paint and green curly wigs, a pair of orange cones, Woody from Toy Story and a ‘lovely jubbly’ group who wore masks of characters from Only Fools and Horses while waving ‘180’ signs around.
Others dressed in German lederhosen, a Christmas-themed red suit ahead of the season, summer floral Hawaiian shirts, and orange shirts which read ‘Stand Up If U Luv The Darts’.
Others were just as creative as they wrote on cards handed around. One had the centre the Black Country saying of ‘here we yam’ which was proudly displayed.others dressed in German lederhosen, a Christmas-themed red suit ahead of the season, summer floral Hawaiian shirts, and orange shirts which read ‘Stand Up If U Luv The Darts’.
The crowd remained upbeat throughout the match, shouting encouragement at players Max ‘Maximiser’ Hopp and Josh ‘The Maximum’ Payne, who kick-started the event with an eight-leg encounter.
A deathly silence rained down on the audience as they watched with bated breath – a pint clutched in one hand and the ‘180’ sign in the other – as Josh Payne rained down two treble 20s and twiddled the third dart between his fingers, eyes intently focused on the dart board.
The audience took a deep breath as the final dart left his hand, landing on the final treble 20 to secure the famous score. “One hundred and eighty!” Screamed the announcer from the pit of his stomach, the microphone causing the sound to reverberate around the auditorium they were playing in to the delight of the crowd.
They were crowd as arguably at their loudest as the first 180 was scored, the player fist-pumping as the crowd in their different costumes erupted with noise – screams of delight, coupled with the vigorous waving of the ‘180’ signs and loud, booming music which signified this was something special.
The whole atmosphere was electric, with the crowd feeling every emotion the player was – wincing as scores of 140 and 125 were hit, instead of the magic 180.
The packed room erupted as Max sealed a comeback victory, fighting from 2-0 down against his opponent to claim a 5-3 win. Cheers and screams of excitement echoed as heavy dance music blared out of the speakers, turning the auditorium into a disco as multi-coloured lights flashed around the room.
Later, in an interview, the German Hopp said the crowd was ‘great’ and said the loud cheers, wails of excitement, dancing, and supporting of the players by waving signs all helped ‘make the game even more interesting’.
He added the crowd helped him adjust to the new venue – and it’s certainly clear to see why.
Other matches included the return of reigning champion Michael ‘Mighty Mike’ van Gerwen, ‘Mighty Mike’, who remained unbeaten at the tournament since 2014, completing a routine 5-1 defeat of Gary Robson, ‘Big Robbo’ and extending his winning run in the city to 22 matches.
The champion had a stunning 112.66 average, the third highest ever seen at the tournament – firing six 180s in his tie – which delighted fans.
Workers at the leisure centre had worked over the past few days to transform the venue into a site fit for the stars, fans and TV crews which it certainly was.
The Sky Sports-televised competition features players from both the PDC and BDO systems competing for a £110,00 top prize.
The 32-player tournament competition, which runs until Sunday spans over nine days, is being held at Aldersley Leisure Centre while the Civic Halls are refurbished and started on Saturday.
Tickets are on sale at wolvescivic.co.uk and at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery box office in Lichfield Street.