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Wildcard plays winning hand to scoop BT Manager of the Month prize

Sheffield’s luxury sports bar gives fans unique experience with booths and jumbotron

A road running from the heart of the Steel City’s student district out to the more exclusive suburbs might not seem like an obvious place for a North American- inspired sports bars.

But the upmarket behemoth, The Wildcard Sports Bar and Grill, on Sheffield’s Ecclesall Road with its wall-to-wall screens, shuffleboard, 20 draught products and US-based menu is exactly that.

At the hub of it all is Jack Hartley, the general manager who based the concept on the bars he experienced during his years living in America and Canada.  

Jack, who has won the BT Sport Manager of the Month award for turning his concept into a successful reality, explains: “I lived in North America for quite some time, working and socialising in sports bars and I identified that Sheffield was lacking a premium sports bar and grill. There are some great places, but nothing quite like this.

It’s a premium sports bar and grill. We pride ourselves on our food offering. On the drinks side we have more than 20 draught selections and more than 25 cocktails. We have pool, shuffleboard and we are wall to wall TVs and show all sports and attract all sorts.

Working with his backers, Jack has created a brand at the former casino site that may well be rolled out to other venues and cities.

The most eye-catching feature at The Wildcard is the jumbotron that hangs above the island bar and provides a central viewing point for all. 

Jack, a keen amateur ice hockey player, continues: “At Sheffield arena there’s a jumbotron above the rink and it’s a focal point. We spoke to our joiners and architects about how we could do it here.

“It took a few meetings to work it all out and come up with the design but eventually we got the screen material imported from Germany and put it up ourselves.

It absolutely is the focal point and it is the first thing people see when they come in. We needed something in place that would separate us from the crowd. I’d never seen it in a bar before so it is job done.

The rest of the venue features around 40 more TVs – including screens in the rest rooms – so nobody ever need miss a moment of action.

Live sport is naturally a huge draw for customers with minority sports featuring alongside classics such as UEFA Champions League, more football, cricket, and rugby union.

 

Jack continues: “BT Sport is mega important with what we do with the football, rugby and cricket offering. The fact that we can play all of those different midweek games on different screens at the same time is ideal.

“The UCL final is huge for us. Alongside the Euros, it is the best atmosphere we have had so far.”

The venue also tips a generous wink towards some of the major sporting stars to emerge from Sheffield. If you are not looking at a screen the chances are your attention will have been grabbed by the kit and memorabilia from stars such as Joe Root, Kell Brook, Jessica Ennis-Hill and former Masters champion Danny Willett.  

Trading is now going well at the venue, following a stop-start beginning after opening during the pandemic.

One of the business partners who has supported Wildcard throughout is Budweiser Brewing Group, who nominated Jack for the BT Sport Manager of the Month award.

Budweiser have been hugely important to us since day one. Ever since we were putting plans together they have been very supportive in doing what’s right for the venue. We want to create something that works for both of us. The Corona font takes pride of place and just happens to be our best seller.

The journey from Sheffield to America and back has led to Jack winning the award, which will now take pride of place at the bar. He also receives a £1,000 voucher to spend in the BT Shop.

“It’s amazing to win it. I had no idea I was even nominated. A lot of hard work goes into opening and setting up a venue like this so that recognition was pretty special for sure.”

 

  • Do you know someone who deserves to be considered for a BT Sport Manager of the Month – or Club of the Month – award? Let us know why on Twitter by tagging in @BTSportBars and using  the hashtag #BTMOTM.

 

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