After a decade spent at the Kettering Conference Centre, EPIC.LAN were suddenly in dire need to find a location for their upcoming July LAN event at short notice after the venue announced that it was set to close at the end of May 2023.
Luckily for Jon Winkle and co., that location has been found in Wolverhampton, seeing the new venue at the Racecourse in the north of the city. For those that’ll miss the feeling of the KCC, it even has a lake to look at and not swim in.
As the previous Editor-in-Chief and current friend of UKCSGO.com, plus a former resident of Wolverhampton, I [Michael “DuckMoriarty” Moriarty] am here to give you a brief guide to the city of dreams here in the Black Country. I recommend trying orange chips while you’re in the city, it’ll ruin normal chips for you for the rest of your life. I for one know I’ll be hitting up a chippy to grab myself an unreasonably large portion when I make my return.
Wolverhampton is the jewel of the West Midlands. Located in the Black Country, on the edge of Staffordshire and just outside Birmingham. It holds a significant amount of history as one of the major centres of the Industrial Revolution, with notable industries located in the city including brewing, steel production, lock making, and car and motorcycle manufacturing. The heart of the city’s economy is still centred on engineering, with aerospace becoming a more recent addition to the local economy.
The city is, to the vast majority of you, most well known for the football club, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves have their home at Molineux Stadium. Both the club, and the stadium, are historically significant to the sport of football, having seen success and pushed forward the development of football. Wolves’ most successful period came in the 1950s, lifting the league title three times and the FA Cup twice.
But it was during this time, when Molineux had floodlights installed, that the development of international European club competition started. These floodlit friendlies saw a number of international teams, including Celtic, Argentina’s Racing Club, Rapid Vienna, and the South African national team all play under the lights. But the most notable was the game against Budapest Honvéd, a 3-2 victory for Wolves, that eventually led to the creation of the European Cup after Wolves manager Stan Cullis declared the club “champions of the world,” to the chagrin of sides in Spain and Italy.
Wolverhampton is also a significant home to a number of musical acts, including rock groups Slade, Cornershop, soul singer Beverley Knight, DJ Goldie and members of Dexys Midnight Runners. More recently, producer and artist S-X, and One Direction’s Liam Payne, are Wolverhampton natives.
For those fans of pub sports, Wolverhampton sees the Players Championship held at the Aldersley Leisure Village, which is also where the Grand Slam of Darts currently finds its home before its expected move back to the Civic Centre later this year. The venue EPIC39 will be based in, Wolverhampton Racecourse, is also historically significant. It was one of the first all-weather horse racing courses in the UK, and the first to be floodlit in Britain.
Getting to Wolverhampton from most places in the United Kingdom is a reasonably simple feat. By road, it’s exceptionally well connected by the M54 and M6, as well as a number of A-roads around the city itself. There are regular bus services that cross the city, which centre on the Bus Station that sits part of the Wolverhampton Interchange site, over the bridge from the railway station. There are a number of bus services that stop nearby the racecourse, including the 3, 4, 32, 33, and 62.
By rail, Wolverhampton sits on the West Coast Mainline, meaning easy connection from London and the South East all the way up to Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow. There’s also CrossCountry rail that extends all the way down to Bournemouth or Bristol, and services that reach to North Wales. Naturally, there’s also regular service to Birmingham so numerous other towns and cities in the UK can be reached via transfer there.
Alternatively, for those locals that don’t want to drive, the West Midlands Metro tram network also exists, with Wolverhampton as its terminus from Birmingham. It currently stops on the outskirts of the city centre, with an extension to the station that’s been vaguely near completion for over a year, but it’s another reasonably active route into Wolverhampton.
The Racecourse itself is situated in the north of the city, essentially in the corner of two canals. For those that enjoy a nice pleasant walk the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is a pleasant one to wander down.
Immediately on the junction that’ll send you to the Racecourse, you can find a McDonald’s for a quick dinner, but head a little bit north then you can find a KFC and Fish & Chip shop in a reasonable distance to reach. There’s also the Grill-It restaurant in that area too, which I can recommend.
However, a 30 minute walk away (or less than ten minute drive) you can reach the wonderful West Park and look at the ducks in the lake or, potentially more interesting to the EPIC.LAN attending audience of this article, you can reach the inner ring road of the city centre of Wolverhampton, and the cornucopia of activities inside.
Also worth a mention is the Bentley Bridge, just off Wednesfield Way. As an out of town shopping park it’s not that close, about a 15 minute drive from the racecourse, but features a number of restaurants, takeaways, a cinema and a bowling alley. I’ve been instructed by Gumpster to mention COSMO at the site, which has an all you can buffet.
Places to stay
There’s a number of hotels located in Wolverhampton. Naturally, the main one to note is the ever-so-convenient Holiday Inn on-site, a reasonably large hotel that’ll allow those staying there to roll in, and roll out, on the mornings and evenings of the event without travelling too far.
Outside of that, there are a few other options in town. Down by the railway station, there are two well-rated hotels in the Novotel and Premier Inn, or the Redwings Lodge nearby the football stadium. Outside of the ring road, there are a number of other hotels to choose from, including a number around West Park. For those looking for a bit of luxury and don’t mind the travel out of Tettenhall, The Mount Hotel is a strong 4-star choice.
Heading into town
There’s no need to head to Birmingham, there’s plenty to do in the city itself. With a number of restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs in town you’ll be spoiled for choice. The main places to explore for an evening would be Lichfield Street, North Street/Queen Square or Dudley Street, with a number of bars, restaurants and takeaways located on these streets.
For those wanting a bite to eat with their team, or mates (or teammates), the centre of town can provide you with a number of choices. Starting with the classic LAN favourite of Nando’s, located in Queen Street a short walk from the Bus and Train stations. From a personal perspective, I can also recommend the Indian restaurant Dilshad on Berry Street, and Made in Thai on Darlington Street. I’ve also heard good things about The Bilash.
With pubs, you can have a reasonable scout out for yourself in terms of what would best meet your vibe, but I can put personal recommendations towards the Leaping Wolf, The Great Western, The Parisian and the Hogshead. For those budget conscious, there’s a Wetherspoons, The Moon Under Water, on Lichfield Street.
For those looking for a slightly more lively night, there are a number of nightclubs in town too, catering for all tastes. These include Popworld, Gorgeous and Planet, but there are potentially a few others to explore in town too. And for those that enjoy a flutter, there’s a Genting Casino situated on the other side of the Wulfrun Shopping Centre on Temple Street. Like I said, no need to leave town!
I hope you enjoy your stay in Wolverhampton as EPIC.LAN takes up at the Racecourse this summer. It’s a city that I enjoyed living in for a number of years, and hope that your visit can be equally enjoyable for you all.
EPIC.LAN 39 will be held at the Wolverhampton Racecourse, on 27 – 30 July 2023. Tickets will be available shortly, from the EPIC.LAN website.