Plans have been revealed for a major new leisure complex and regeneration scheme for Merthyr Tydfil, focused around two new hotels, spa and conference facilities, heritage and nature trails, the UK’s largest indoor water park, an international centre of excellence for snowsport, as well as new homes. An indoor bike and skate park is also proposed that would complement the activities of neighbouring Bike Park Wales.
Marvel Limited acquired the c.575 acre site, known as Rhydycar West (situated to the west of Merthyr), in 2013. The Company has been working with local, regional and national stakeholders to develop a leisure-focused, mixed-use scheme for the site, with the aim of building on the success of a number of other schemes to have opened in Merthyr over recent years, including Bike Park Wales, Cyfarthfa Retail Park, Rock UK, and the new Trago Mills store due to open in 2018.
Some of the additional ideas being explored for the site include an equestrian centre, a mountain coaster, zip line, air park, log-cabin and yurt accommodation, as well as community facilities such as a playground, sports pitch and fishing ponds. Initial estimates suggest the Rhydycar West scheme could deliver up to £450 million of capital investment to the area as well as 800 new long-term jobs.
Leisure Proposals Summary
The emerging proposals include the following elements for the leisure hub:
- Centre of Excellence for Snowsport: in addition to being a major tourist draw to the area from around the country, the 500-metre indoor ski slope (one of the longest in Europe and the longest in the UK) would be a vital facility for Team GB and for developing talent in Wales. It would also engage local communities in long-term participation in snowsports, provide pathway opportunities for talented Welsh athletes, and be a family-friendly experience, catering for all standards of skiing and snowboarding (including complete beginners) with a terrain park, snow tubing, snow play area and ice climbing.
- Indoor Water Park and Indoor Surf Simulator: the largest indoor water park in the UK and indoor surf simulator.
- Indoor Bike and Skate Park: the first of its kind in Wales, this facility would complement the neighbouring Bike Park Wales. The Park would be designed to help bikers and skaters improve their skills in a year-round training facility that would include foam pits, dirt jumps, learning area, and children’s pump track and street scene. There are synergies with the national snowsports training as it could provide a low-risk training centre for certain snowsport disciplines. Skateboarding is now included as an Olympic sport from the 2020 Olympics.
- Hotel and Spa: tied in to the ski centre and waterpark, the proposals include a high quality hotel and spa with conference facilities, offering a year-round attraction with accommodation to encourage longer stays.
- Glamping, Yurts and Cabins: a range of themed tents, yurts and cabins set within the forest environment of the wider site, which would offer alternative accommodation options to visitors in a managed, high quality ecological setting.
- History and Mining Educational Tour: a family-friendly and educational outdoor walking tour, which would celebrate the site’s range of industrial archaeological monuments and features, tied into the overall Merthyr story, and documenting the rich industrial legacy for which Merthyr is internationally recognised.
- Heritage, Biking and Walking Trails: an adventure, nature and heritage park with trails and paths for the public to use for free.
- Mountain Coaster: similar to the successful attraction that recently opened in Snowdonia.
- Equestrian Centre: an area to keep, ride and graze horses.
- Survivor Adventure Park, Air Park and Zip Line: to provide additional family-friendly and team-building activities.
- Local Community Amenities: such as a playground, sports pitch and fishing ponds.
- Complementary Retail: restaurants and other specialist shops to complement the leisure facilities.
Leigh Large, of Marvel Limited, said;
“We have approached this scheme as a blank canvas and have spent extensive time and resource to understand in detail the unique ecological and heritage features of the site, and how we can design a scheme to work sensitively with these. We are taking a collaborative approach, talking to people to ensure we understand local aims and aspirations. We want to build on the many recent success stories in Merthyr.
“We believe our scheme’s exciting sport and adventure facilities will attract more visitors to Merthyr, and the high quality accommodation options will help keep them in the area for longer, addressing the current lack of local accommodation.
“The site has unfortunately been closed to the public for a very long time due to legacy mining hazards, but our proposals would see large areas of the site opened up, including a series of heritage and nature trails. Our plan is to help celebrate Merthyr’s rich industrial heritage and to ensure its long-term preservation; for example we are currently working with Cadw to schedule several further ancient monuments on the site.”
“It is important to emphasize that the overall plans for the site are still in development. We will be consulting with the local community this autumn so we can deliver the best possible scheme for Merthyr.”
At 500 metres in length, the snowsport centre would be home to the longest indoor ski slope in the UK (the longest currently is in Manchester at 180m), and would be one of the longest in Europe. Marvel Limited have signed an agreement with Snowsport Cymru Wales to work together on the delivery of the state-of-the-art snowsport facility which could be the future training base for the Team GB ski and snowboard team, which currently travels year-round to indoor ski centres elsewhere in Europe.
Robin Kellen, Chief Executive of Snowsport Cymru Wales said;
“We have a great opportunity to use our natural resources in Wales to develop an indoor ski and snowboard facility that would provide year-round training facilities for Olympic athletes as well as local enthusiasts, to create opportunities for increasing participation in snowsports as well as developing a unique weather-proofed tourism attraction. Snowsport Cymru Wales has worked closely with the project development team for some time now to make sure we meet the long-term needs of the sport and ensure a sustainable business model for this project.”
Speaking about the proposals, Dan Hunt, Performance Director of British Ski and Snowboard said, “I am very excited by the prospect of having a national training centre of excellence for snowsports in Wales. We would really welcome the chance to be able to have access to more home-based training for our national team as well as the fantastic opportunities this facility would present in developing the next crop of talented athletes.”
Outline plans for the project will come forward for community consultation this autumn.