My name is Romil Azemat and I am the owner of the Arizona Snooker Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.
I used to have my own Riley Aristocrat table at home, and when myself and my wife bought our new home we decided not to put the table in the new house. After a couple of years I started to have health issues, so I saw my doctor who told me that I need to keep myself occupied with things that make me happy, like going to the gym and other activities. I tried everything and my health did not improve. My wife told me to rebuild the snooker table because she knew it would improve my health. So, I decided to sell my office in Scottsdale, Arizona, and buy a warehouse by my home. I started to design the layout and came to the conclusion that I would put a snooker table in my showroom. I told a few people about my plan, and, over the next few weeks, I had calls coming in from people who asked me if they could come and play once I had the table set up.
One night while sitting on the porch with my brother-in-law, who works in IT, I asked him if it was possible to turn my showroom into a snooker room with four tables and whether the running of the tables could be automated, everything controlled by an app. We came up with ideas about how it could work, and the next day I was talking to app developers and signing a contract to start the process. We designed the app so you can schedule your table time. When you arrive, the table light will turn on as soon as you start the session on the app. When you are finished, the light will turn off and you can pay your table time via checkout. The entrance is biometric. While the improvements on the building started, I took a trip to Beijing to meet with Xingpai STAR to become their exclusive United States distributor, and also to purchase the tables for my new venue. I bought four of the tournament TV tables as seen on the World Snooker Tour. We had our grand opening on May 15, 2019, and today we have 72 members. I named the venue the Arizona Snooker Academy.
Since the club has been open, I have been contacted by many snooker enthusiasts to buy snooker tables for their personal use. I have also sold a few tables to people who have started their own clubs. I have sold lot of Xingpai tables across the United States, and that makes me really happy because I can see that snooker is growing across the country. Before I became a distributor, no one was selling snooker tables in the United States and all tables were imported from the U.K., which made the purchase very difficult. I also started my relationship with Simon Barker of Barker Billiards, who took a trip to the United States every six months to install the tables I sold. Simon is one of the top table fitters in the world and fits most of the 32 top ranked players’ tables, Ronnie O’Sullivan among them. Unfortunately COVID-19 has hit us hard, so I had problems getting Simon over during this period. As soon as borders become more open he is ready to take the trip over again.
Since we have been open my health has improved, and snooker has really helped me and others play the game we really love. Pool players are coming and learning the snooker etiquette, and they are amazed by how beautiful the game is.
With Daren Taylor—who is the son of David Taylor (the Silver Fox)—I started a local tournament at Arizona Snooker Academy with a heavy handicap for the better players, to give a chance to other players to compete and to make the games more even. I am hoping to host the United States National Championships for the first time and to host big prize-money tournaments with international players taking part, of course with the help and approval of the United States Snooker Association. I did not open this academy as a business because there is no money to be made when you do not serve food or drinks. This is purely a passion of mine, and my next step is to invite children of different ages from nearby schools to play here for free. My overall goal is to grow the sport in the United States. I am sure that bigger snooker tournaments are coming to the United States soon.