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05-24-2005, 10:28 PM
Rack 'em! Cedar Falls pool hall draws all ages
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By KELSEY HOLM, Courier Staff Writer

CEDAR FALLS --- Every pool player has experienced it --- the bump.

Just as the game is getting intense, another bar patron steps up and slaps a few quarters down on the table.

He just claimed the table for the next game, stealing a chance for another rivalry on the green felt.

Avid pool players now have a place to go, and there's room for all of them, at Break Room Billiards in Cedar Falls. Owner David Wagner opened his 15-table pool hall April 29, and the word is already getting out.

"We've been open, like, 16 days and some people have been here 14 of those days," Wagner said. "It's neat to watch their ability and intelligence grow about the game."

Each player is charged $3.50 per hour of play, with a $7 maximum per hour per table while playing on the 13 Brunswick 9-foot tables. Wagner also has two Valley 7-foot tables that are coin operated. League games are held three times a week, and tournaments four times a week.

Finger foods, including frozen pizzas and sandwiches, are available but Break Room Billiards is alcohol free, but not smoke free.

The alcohol-free decision is one appreciated by Wagner's clientele.

"I think it's nice we have someplace to play that we don't have to go to a bar and hear anything you're liable to hear in a bar," said Break Room patron Lyman Frank, who has played pool for 50 years. "Dave's is as clean as can be and more of a family oriented pool room."

Focusing on family is something Wagner, a Cedar Falls native, has done since he had the idea of opening a pool room in his hometown. He and his wife, Denise, co-owned Jimmy's Pro Billiards with former professional player Jimmy Wetch in Minnesota, where they lived until 1998. They moved back so their kids --- John, 7, Sami, 11 and Joe, 16, could be near family. Wagner thought it would be nice if Joe had somewhere to go with his friends, and the other two children are involved as well, with Sami helping customers and John making up his own billiard games.

"Feedback has been great. Parents have come in with kids, and city staff have come down and said they appreciate what we're trying to do," said Wagner. "It's kind of neat that young people under 21 don't get kicked out, and they're playing a longer time without getting bumped."

James Schneider, 22, and his girlfriend, Michaela Engelmann, 24, play pool at Break Room an average of five days a week, and the couple just started playing league games one week ago. Just casual players in the past, Schneider and Engelmann recently purchased pool cues from Wagner's pro shop, located within the pool hall. Schneider said a night of playing pool is a lot cheaper than going to a bar, and he enjoys the atmosphere.

"It's just really casual and laid back. You can talk to any of the people who work there, especially Dave. He's really good about going around and talking to everyone and introducing himself," said Schneider, adding he has played pool with all of the Break Room Billiards employees.

For Wagner, it was important to hire staff members who knew something about playing pool. For employee Samuel Miller, it's a dream job.

"I'm getting paid to do something I love, and it's pretty good experience," said Miller.

Though he has been open less than one month, Wagner hopes to eventually expand his pro shop and his hours past 2 a.m., to reach the downtown crowd. He also wants to get more involved in teaching youth the sport.

Wagner said the cross section of pool is ageless, and he enjoys meeting people from all walks of life as well as watching players get to know each other.

"It becomes like family, the regulars," he said. "They set up shots and they socialize. There's a lot more to it than playing pool. It's a social game."

Contact Kelsey Holm at (319) 291-1464 or kelsey.holm@wcfcourier.com. web page (http://www.wcfcourier.com/articles/2005/05/24/news/metro/8e362ad09ee82eef8625700b004b7493.txt)