Ambitious plans to create an iconic £30 million snow centre at Middlehaven will transform Middlesbrough into a major visitor attraction.
The scheme has already been granted outline planning permission and work is now going on behind the scenes on the project’s finer details.
Cool Runnings (NE) – the Teesside company behind the scheme – is targeting September 2019 for the snow centre to be open for business…and lots of leisure.
And with projected visitors of 2.25 million a year to the centre, success-focused Middlesbrough Council chiefs say the aspirational scheme will drive a blizzard of further investments as more exciting leisure operators look to locate around the central attraction.
Tony Parkinson, Middlesbrough Council’s interim chief executive, says the snow centre will transform the national profile and public perception of the town, making it a go-to destination for hundreds of thousands of leisure-seekers who will travel to Teesside from across the north of England and beyond.
“There is no question the snow centre has the potential to transform the town,” says Parkinson. “It will create a go-to destination.
“It’s hard to get your head around projected visitors of 2.25m a year, but this isn’t our guesswork – those figures are from independent professionals who have studied the impact of other snow centres across the UK and Europe.”
The council is working hand-in-hand with Cool Runnings to help deliver a crucial part of the local authority’s dramatic plans to transform Middlesbrough by 2020 via investments totalling £700m – £74m of which will come from the council itself.
Through Middlesbrough’s Investment Prospectus, they are looking to create 5,000 new jobs in the town through a series of exciting developments including Grade A town centre office space, a 450 bed student village, a media and innovation village and 5,500 new homes.
Although the council is not directly investing in the snow centre, it is working in partnership with Cool Runnings to maximise the opportunities that automatically follow such a transformational scheme.
Central to that is a new three-lane bridge at Middlehaven Dock and new access road, with work due to get underway by July for completion in around 18 months. Both are key elements of nearly £10m of infrastructure investment that will open up the entire Middlehaven zone for further developments around the snow centre by making the whole area more accessible.
The road and bridge will link the A66 at North Ormesby with Middlehaven via Shepherdson Way alongside the Riverside Stadium, across the dock to the Temenos sculpture and along to Vulcan Street, close to the Transporter Bridge, eventually emerging at Newport interchange.
The plans will not only boost existing Middlehaven enterprises but play a vital role in supporting the snow centre proposals and other potential spin-off developments.
There are plans for an indoor skydiving hub within a leg of the snow centre, whilst the list of potential spin-off leisure activities to entertain visitors from far and wide includes an ice climbing wall, trampoline park, six restaurants and four retail outlets focused on the outdoor pursuits market.
Kevin Parkes, Middlesbrough Council’s executive director of growth and place, explains: “The dock bridge and what will be a major through road will naturally provide access to the snow centre but they will also open up the whole Middlehaven area.
“The Council owns another 60 acres of land in that area. This improved access will make Middlehaven an even more attractive investment prospect for those wishing to piggyback on the snow centre development.”
Parkinson adds: “You can’t overestimate the importance of the road configuration. The snow centre will transform the town, but the new road system gives us a chance to transform the whole area.
“The important point is that the development won’t just be the snow centre, as exciting as that is in its own right. We expect there to be a number of leisure activities there.
“Around the Snow Dome at Castleford are high ropes, Quasar, a ten-pin bowling centre, trampoline park and cinema. The snow experience might only take up an hour-and-a-half of a family’s visit but they’ll actually stay all day – and many will stay overnight too.
“With so many visitors from an area covering Berwick to York, the snow centre will automatically trigger demand for a new hotel in the immediate area, which will then drive further food, beverage and leisure facilities, whilst we’re also planning housing developments over there, too.
“Nowadays people meet up with friends and family for weekends. They’ll come to the snow centre but they’ll also go for something to eat, take part in other activities, stay over, and many will then visit maybe Hartlepool Marina or North York Moors or the white water centre at Tees Barrage, so it will benefit all parts of the Tees Valley, not just Middlesbrough.”
The new road and bridge development, which is being assisted by £3.93m from the Local Growth Fund, will also create further opportunities for the regeneration of the dock as a marina and centre for water sports and leisure use.
Initial artist’s impressions of the proposed snow centre suggest the new building will have the wow factor, and Parkes says this is something the council is keen to encourage.
“We’ve always aspired to have high quality, contemporary architecture in the area, and the snow centre completely meets with that objective. It will be a very vibrant, modern building.
“Both Cool Runnings and the council are keen to retain the quality, vision, aspiration and ambition for the building we all want to see, so a high-level architect is now being brought in to fine-tune the designs.
“We want Middlehaven’s developments to have a genuine sense of place and arrival – somewhere that, no matter where you are in the world, if you see a picture of it you’ll know immediately that’s Middlesbrough.
“We already have some iconic architecture at Middlehaven such as the Middlesbrough College building, CIAC, Boho One, the Keiro building and Temenos – plus, of course, the Riverside Stadium, which was trailblazer in its own right when it was built. The snow centre will set the bar even higher.”
We aim to deliver with our Cool partner
Pie in the sky? Tony Parkinson, Middlesbrough Council’s interim chief executive, has heard all the cynics who refuse to believe the snow centre will ever happen but insists the town is set to leave behind its past and throw open its arms to a bright new future.
“I fully understand why people think it’s not going to happen,” he admits. “If I was Joe Public, I probably wouldn’t believe it either because it’s so fantastic and transformational. But if we didn’t have big ambitions we’d be doing the town a disservice.
“We are an ambitious, innovative council that has budgeted to invest £74m over the next few years. The feedback we’re getting from business and potential investors is very positive – they like that we’re not riskaverse.
“Working with people like Cool Runnings is a perfect opportunity to be forwardthinking and dynamic – to make a really bold statement about what the Tees Valley can achieve. We have to be confident and ambitious.
“Castleford has demonstrated what can be done, transforming an old coal site into an iconic destination via a snow centre.
“And there is huge demand for more. Right now there isn’t a snow centre between Glasgow to the north and Castleford to the south.
“The ambition, strength of character and charisma of Cool Runnings has got this project to where it is now, with the council doing an awful lot of work in collaboration with them.
“We won’t be deflected by people saying it can’t happen in Middlesbrough.”