Council to spend £1m on Ratho climbing centre

Climbers at Ratho centre. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Climbers at Ratho centre. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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COUNCIL chiefs are set to guarantee the future of the Ratho climbing centre by repairing the roof at a cost of almost £1 million and agreeing to an ongoing subsidy of the venue.

An independent review of the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) recommends the centre continues to be run by arms-length council organisation Edinburgh Leisure and the council gives an assurance management arrangements will not change for at least the next three years.

The climbing centre opened in 2003 before closing in 2005 when its owner went into receivership and reopening in 2007 under the leadership of Edinburgh Leisure. The council spent £3.87m to buy the facility and a further £5.82m in completing the building.

The review, ordered over concerns about the centre’s financial viability, comes down against putting management of the venue out to tender, mothballing the building or selling the site on the open market.

It describes the EICA as a “world-class climbing facility and a centre of excellence in its field” and says it contributes £2.1m to the Edinburgh economy when climbing events occur.

“Edinburgh Leisure has made a determined effort to make the centre a success. The climbing membership has grown, as has income generated from ancillary activities such as the Scrambles soft play, the fitness gym, events and conferences.”

The report says that closing the venue could save £400,000 a year, but it adds: “When mothballing and all other associated closure costs are taken into account and considered alongside the economic and sporting benefits of the centre and the uncertainty over potential alternative uses of the site, the case for closure weakens considerably.”

Transferring the venue to a third party would be likely to require an ongoing subsidy, it adds.

The report, to be considered by the city’s culture and sport committee next week, says the roof of the climbing centre needs to be replaced at a cost of up to £940,000. The council’s capital investment programme has identified £550,000 towards this in 2012-2014. Work is due to start this spring. The report says further funding will need to be identified from the 2014-15 budget and slippage elsewhere.

The report says: “The review makes the point that the centre should not be considered in isolation, but as part of the council’s general stock of sport and leisure facilities which, in keeping with those in other local authority areas, are operated on the principles of accessibility and inclusivity and are not designed to make a profit. Consequently almost all of them require an operational subsidy.”

Culture and sport convener Richard Lewis said: “The EICA continues to perform well under Edinburgh Leisure’s management with visitor numbers showing impressive growth year-on-year.

“The replacement of the centre’s roof remains a priority and this work will begin shortly after the IFSC European Youth Cup in June.”