OWATONNA – Phillip Wright has been an avid pool player for a number of years, from playing for fun to playing in competitive leagues. He’s passionate about the game, and he’s passionate about winning.
“I would say I’m an OK player,” Wright laughed. “It’s about being able to play somebody and be better than them. Just like with any sport you want to be better than your opponent. The better my opponent is, the more it challenges me. I suppose the challenge is what I love the most about the game.”
Over the last two years, Wright has been diligently working to transform his passion into a vision that will allow anyone and everyone — from all over the world — to compete.
Coming this spring, Wright will be opening Philly’s Billiards, a pool hall that will feature adult and junior leagues and tournaments, at 120 W. Broadway in the old Family Dollar location. The hall will feature 16 Brunswick Black Wolf Pro seven-foot tables, four nine-foot Brunswick Tournament Edition tables, and eight dart boards. The business will host eight-ball, nine-ball, and 10-ball leagues as well as dart leagues.
“I came up with a format for tournaments that works and that pays the players a lot more than they’re getting now,” Wright said, explaining that they year-long tournaments will have qualifiers every Saturday that will allow individuals to compete for the top prize. With the entry fees and the help of a silent backer, Wright is proud to announce that the year-end, eight-ball championship will award first place with $100,000.
“It’s another person who loves pool and can see where I’m going,” Wright said of his silent backer for the prize money.
Though the leagues and tournaments are an important part of the business, Wright stated the open play will also be available throughout the week, giving everyone the opportunity to play the game he loves.
“We’re trying to run as many leagues as we can. The backbone of this operation is pool leagues, but there will be plenty of time for open play between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.,” he added. “And members of our Junior Leagues can come in and play during the week for free from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.”
The hall will also offer fountain drinks and pizzas, with qualifier tournaments on the weekends catering in food and alcohol. Wright added that when alcohol is being catered to the location that they will be a 21-plus establishment.
“This is going to bring 3,200 people into Owatonna a year,” Wright said. “I have messages from all over the world of people who already want to play in these tournaments — people from Russia, the U.K., Thailand, China, Japan, and Hawaii. Plus during the week we will be drawing in people from Austin, Albert Lea, Mankato, and Rochester who want to play in the leagues.”
Drawing people into town, especially downtown, has been a priority for the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism during recent years. Chamber President Brad Meier stated that whenever an empty building can be filled with a new business it is always exhilarating.
“Anytime we can fill a vacancy, especially with a new business that is so unique to the area, it makes us happy,” he said. “This big pool hall is something that will really attract people in for different events. It’s a fairly big space that is prominent, near Central Park, and has good road access to our downtown. We’re really excited to see what he’s able to do with the space.”
Originally, Wright’s plan was to take the business out to the former Walmart building. He stated that he went as far as having plans drawn up with a construction company before that location was sold to a different company.
“Finding this building that is decent sizes downtown was pretty nice,” Wright laughed. “Plus it has a brand new roof.”
Using a laser focus, Wright said that his plan is to revamp the inside and outside of the building to be up and ready for leagues to begin no later than April 1.
“Everybody says I’m too passionate,” Wright joked about his drive to make his new adventure a success. “But I have a vision and I’m going to revolutionize this business.”