Reinventing the Pool Hall: Freezer’s Ice House offers alternative to Mill Avenue din

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With its massive neon-lit bar, polished interior and sea of flat-screen televisions, Freezer’s Ice House looks like a post-remodel watering hole on Spike’s Bar Rescue. But the billiards-centric establishment has one thing that many of the television show’s sanitized, reformed dive bars are missing — a soul.

That soul comes in the form of 30 top-of-the-line pool tables and the man who picked them out, owner and professional pool player Scott Frost.

Even the club’s name — Freezer’s Ice House — is a reference to Frost’s professional nickname. He is known as The Freezer because he would leave opponents frozen while he ran the racks.

Frost is something of a billiards legend, having won numerous nationwide accolades, including U.S. Open One-Pocket Championship titles, and was known as one of the best players in the world from 2009 to 2014.

With the business, Frost is making good on a lifelong goal he committed to with childhood friend and business partner Jason Chance. “We were both great pool players in Des Moines,” Frost says. “We basically had a conversation 20 years ago that he was going to go to school and I was going to try to play professional pool for a living and one day we could build our dream pool room.”

While Frost pursued billiards, Chance became a successful businessman with his company Diamond Oil.

Despite his impressive resume, Frost is almost hesitant to speak about his achievements. That is because he doesn’t want to scare away potential patrons who might be wary of scratching in front of a pro. “I’ve had a lot of people come through the door and say they heard who I was and then the first thing out of their mouth to me is ‘I’m not that good,’” Frost says. “I always say the same thing. I had more fun when I was terrible. I hope you had fun — that’s all I care about.”

In creating Freezer’s — which opened over the summer — Frost sought to create a hall that would impress professional players yet still be accessible to neighborhood residents and college students with little to no experience who just want to play a few games.

The duo definitely accomplished the former, sparing no expense — they invested twice as much in the place than they originally planned — in purchasing state-of-the art tables, top-of-the line LED lighting and 12 dart boards.

The staff also takes extra care to keep the massive club clean and the equipment in tip-top shape, General Manager Jack Scerca says. That attention to detail has made the spot a popular destination for billiards fans and Freezer’s is bringing in sizable crowds with the pool leagues it hosts Monday through Thursday.

However, when Frost opened Freezer’s, he also hoped to attract college students. Part of that desire is purely financial. After spending so much money creating the ideal billiards club, it only makes sense to target the enormous ASU student population that lives right next door.

The other part is pride. Freezer’s is Frost’s baby and he wants to show customers — billiards enthusiasts and casual fans alike — that a modern club does not have to resemble the outdated pool halls that so many people associate with the industry. “We decided to build something that is ahead of the times,” Frost says. “Most pool rooms around the country are behind the times 20 to 30 years, easy — really, really outdated.”

The team compares Freezer’s to the Topgolf concept but for billiards.

The look and feel at Freezer’s does appeal to younger players, says Silas Saunders, a junior at ASU majoring in sales and marketing. He notes that prices are favorable compared to some other Tempe pool halls. “They play good music and overall it has a pretty good atmosphere,” Saunders says.

Attracting a steady stream of Millennials and college students has been a struggle for the business, though. While Freezer’s is bringing in some college-age customers, it needs to see more members of the younger generation coming through the door to justify the owners’ major investment.

Industry trends indicate that bringing in younger players could be a daunting task. Billiards halls in the U.S. saw -4.3 percent annual growth between 2012 and 2017 and an analysis shows the industry will see -3.6 percent annual growth from 2017 to 2022, according to IBISWorld’s 2017 Market Research Report on pool and billiard halls in the U.S.

That lack of growth is driven by negative participation trends. The industry is having trouble attracting younger customers, in particular, because those customers have so many competing sources of entertainment, according to the report.

In order to fight negative industry trends, Frost and his team have outfitted Freezer’s with a range of attractions to complement billiards.

These amenities are designed to appeal to the neighboring college student population and give them an alternative hangout to the typical bars and clubs seen on Mill Avenue. “We’ve often heard from ASU students that it’s a nice escape from Mill Avenue,” Scerca says. “I’ve talked to many students who’ve said the regular grind on Mill kind of gets old.”

Frost adds, “They’re constantly saying it’s a breath of fresh air.”

One thing that immediately jumps out to first-time visitors is the televisions. Oh, the televisions.

Upon walking into Freezer’s, visitors are awash in a sea of screens that all carry Pac-12 Network, DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket and all UFC fights. Freezer’s has over 70 flat-screens throughout the place, many of which are hanging above the pool tables and facing in every direction so there’s not an obstructed view in the house.

Freezer’s also features a full-bar with 24 beers on tap and a full-service kitchen. It also boasts a private lounge called The Hotspot Lounge that features regular DJ performances, bottle service, ping-pong tables and retro video games.

The club hosts ASU Nights on Thursdays with a range of drink specials for students. ASU students can play pool for free daily from noon until 4 p.m.

While the Freezer’s team realizes that many of these same amenities can be found at other bars and clubs closer to campus, they have another secret weapon that sets them apart from traditional Mill Avenue haunts: free parking — one of those things everyone takes for granted until they head out for a night on Mill and spend the first 30 minutes searching for a spot.

Frost is quick to emphasize that all the extras Freezer’s offers are complements, not replacements, for the main attraction: pool.

To the onetime champion and current business owner, billiards is always the star of the show.

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