HomeAbout Billiards DigestContact UsArchiveAll About PoolEquipmentOur AdvertisersLinks
Current Issue
Previous Page Page 2 Next Page >

The Real World

During the event, Vickio eyed future possibilities. (Photo by J.R. Calvert)

START-UP SCREW-UPS and serious gripes there were aplenty. But the pros largely agreed that Vickio acted in good faith, while the spectators (and really, there weren't that many of them) seemed unaware of the teeth-gnashing going on behind the scenes. "It was perfect," said fan Paul Loup, who made a six-hour drive from New Orleans to see Johnny Archer, Shane Van Boening and other giants compete in Galveston. He said he wasn't disappointed. "Anybody who likes pool, I can't imagine them not liking something like this. We really enjoyed going there. They probably did some stuff wrong, but I didn't notice it because I was enjoying myself so much."

It probably didn't hurt that the venue was first-rate. With an Imax theater and a water park, Galveston Moody Gardens in recent years has become a popular day-trip destination for residents of nearby Houston. Inside the converted convention hall were 80 Diamond tables, both 7-footers and 9-footers, set end to end in two sections. Above them, suspended from high ceilings, were ornate modern chandeliers. Taylor Road also shelled out about $45,000 for hardwood bleachers (enough for 2,000 spectators, most of whom never materialized) and another $40,000 for customized big screen scoreboards. Add to that the TV arena and the scaffolding, and it becomes clear that Taylor Road spent some serious jack.

How much? One newspaper account put it at $350,000, although Vickio won't say for sure. Neither will he say how much he lost. But he says he could have saved money by doing things differently. For instance, he could cut down on overhead by depending less on leased equipment. Just the light scaffolding alone cost him $30,000, says Vickio. "There is a ton of money that I spent that I could save by making my own equipment," he says. However, one thing all Vickio's money did achieve was good will. Some of the representations made by Taylor Road - and really, is "promises" too strong a word? - failed to match reality. But Vickio spent and lost money, and so there has been a willingness to give him a very large benefit of the doubt.

Who is Louis Vickio and what is Taylor Road Productions? Well for starters, he's apparently rich. Vickio is owner of a Houston-based oilfield services company, something called VFL Energy Technologies. Vickio says the company practically runs itself, giving him the freedom to pursue his expensive dreams. About a year and half ago Vickio joined forces with local room owner Bobby Rone, a friend and frequent one-pocket partner. Together they created Taylor Road Productions (which takes its name from the Houston street address of Vickio's oil services business) and started plotting their assault on the pool world. Another partner is Bobby's brother Clark, who is wheelchair-bound and who helped organize the separate wheelchair event in Galveston.

Vickio, a New York transplant and the son of an engineer, said that as a child he would always pester his parents for a very special Christmas present. "My parents used to give me the Sears and Roebuck catalog to pick out my Christmas presents and every year I picked a pool table," said Vickio. "They would tell me that they couldn't afford a pool table. Every year it was the same thing. But I wanted a pool table." Finally his parents relented. And so Vickio was hooked. He said he continued to play until college, laid off for awhile, and then came back to it later in life. He said the sport was in sad shape when he first left it, and it's in the same sad shape now. "I see these (pro) players, running around playing for nothing. Half of them are running around the country, playing in these little tournaments in pool halls, just to get enough money to get to the next tournament. It's pathetic."

Vickio said it was during a visit to the Derby City Classic that he came up with the idea for his own multi-discipline tournament. He noted the success of Derby City, but also expressed irritation about some aspects of the event. (For instance, he can't abide all the waiting around.) He began to envision his own tournament, but one set in Texas. But no more second-round buy-ins, no more bank pool. And so he got to work with the Rone brothers, eventually got in contact with J.R. Calvert from Inside Pool magazine, hired referee Ken Shuman, and then late in the game also hired Bad Boys Billiard Productions to run the tournament brackets.

He says the key to making it all work is getting sponsorship, keeping the purses down to manageable sizes ("No half-million dollar prizes - pool can't support that," he says, in a not-so-veiled swipe at the failed International Pool Tour), and getting good attendance numbers. And despite the low foot traffic in Galveston, Vickio thinks he's come up with a model that he can replicate and expand.

"So my intent is to hold this tournament, and possibly get some outside sponsorship, and then to take it to another level where we can have a tour," said Vickio. "This is working and this will work. It will happen every year from now on. I want to take this same footprint to other venues, although we'll tweak the footprint. And I'll have (tournaments) as many times as I can have it. If I can have it 12 times a year, then we'll have it 12 times a year."

Previous Page Page 2 Next Page >