The Teesside driving force behind the £30m snow centre destined for Middlesbrough says building work should get underway this Autumn on a project she predicts will transform the Tees Valley.
She has retained a low profile in the region but Rachael Howson of local firm Cool Runnings (NE) is the businesswoman responsible for delivering what promises to be the most exciting entertainment project in Teesside’s history.
The snow centre is planned for land in the town’s Middlehaven area between Middlesbrough College and the Temenos sculpture close to the Riverside Stadium.
Independent experts predict the centre and a number of neighbouring projects will attract 2.25m visitors a year, with a huge knock-on effect for businesses in the wider Tees Valley.
Now Howson has revealed that with work on a bridging road to the site set for completion in July, plans are being drawn up to seek full planning permission in the near future.
And she believes that could mean building work gets underway in September or October of this year.
Construction is expected to take between 12 and 18 months, so the snow centre could be operational by the end of next year.
In an exclusive interview with Tees Business, Howson revealed for the first time her excitement about a project that is expected to create up to 350 jobs – and many more during construction.
“It’s massive,” she said. “It will change not just Middlesbrough but the whole of the Tees Valley.
“It’s not just about the snow centre but the secondary spend – all the spin-offs for other businesses that will benefit from it.
“It might be even bigger than what we’ve got in our outline plans because we’ve got some spare capacity and we’re looking at adding more.”
Howson continued: “The bridging road is due to complete in late July and the aim is for us to be on site by September or October. That’s what we’re aiming for.
“We need full planning permission next so we’re in the process of preparing detailed design work and reports for Middlesbrough Council.
“Once planning permission is given, we will enter a hectic few months where contractors will be appointed.
“To finally think that construction work will get underway, it is exciting.”
Howson said she understands that cynics believe the project will never happen but revealed the work that had gone on behind the scenes.
She said: “It’s taken us three years to get this far and there have been lots of hurdles to overcome so it feels great.
“Things like this can’t and don’t happen overnight. There’s been so much going on behind the scenes that people aren’t aware of including getting funding in place.
“But I see it as something momentous to aim for. It will transform the town and the area.”
Ice Factor Group, the independent owner of Snow Factor Braehead and Ice Factor Kinlochleven, both in Scotland, has been chosen by Cool Runnings (NE) as the operator of the Middlesbrough snow centre.
It will feature two ski slopes, while a range of other facilities are planned including an ice-climbing wall, skydiving arena, soft play area and trampoline centre plus an ice bar, café, restaurant and retain facilities.
Middlesbrough Council is working in partnership with Cool Runnings (NE) to help make the snow centre a reality as part of its ongoing Invest in Middlesbrough programme.