Has Gravesend's Cyclopark been a success one year down the line?
It is a year since Cyclopark in Gravesend opened. Here, chief executive Laurence Tricker answers questions about 12 months which have been 'richly rewarding but tough'
It’s been an eventful year since the opening. How have you found it?
It has exceeded expectations, but it’s been harder than I thought it would be.
We opened in the last week of May and almost a week after that, the rain fell and fell and fell. We got through one of the wettest summers and coldest winters on record so we’ve done much better than we thought, considering the circumstances. About 80,000 people have visited the park. Though it fell short of our 100,000 target, we’re pleased.
What have been the highlights?
One of our flagship events was hosting the BMX Series, a national event. Cyclopark was built to host national events but this was exciting as it was our first one. We had 650 to 700 riders every day, with 1,500 visitors each day.
There were also 90 camper vans and caravans and about 40 people camping. We have the capacity to host events of that size, two or three times a year.
We also had Sir Chris Hoy come and visit us which was fantastic. He is a very busy man, but he stayed for a couple of hours riding and signing autographs. Our community day last June was also great.
What have been the challenges?
The weather. We are very much an outdoor venue so we rely on it. The last bank holiday we had great weather and we were very busy. The work has been very rewarding, but hard-going. We were open 70-85 hours in the winter, long evenings and weekends, it’s tough on staff. We are looking at installing spin bikes indoors, but as a charity our budget is tight so we need help with funding that.
Which activities have proven popular?
The skate park and the BMX have been big hits. People can skate, scooter and freestyle BMX and we have a high level of coaching.
We thought Cyclopark would be very popular with schools, but that’s not turned out to be the case. We have had about 50 schools in, but we want to see around 150 each year. We’re putting together a schools pack to show them what we have to offer.
Our “cycloplay” events are also popular with families. There are swings, slides, an ice cream hut, all of which children can cycle around. It’s a very safe environment with no litter and no dogs.
What are you looking to develop?
We want to extend our Wheels for All sessions for people with learning and physical disabilities on adapted bikes. We need shelters as they can get cold quite quickly and we’d love more adapted bikes. Elsewhere it would be great to have more cycle circuits but they are very expensive to build and space is at a premium.
Where do you see Cyclopark this time next year?
Hopefully we’ll learn as much as we have done this year. We want to establish a proper membership scheme and have lots of repeat visitors. It would be great to host two or three national events and come up with more new ideas on what we can offer. We want this to be a tourism destination with new routes and new attractions. We hope to start putting them in place in 2014. Overall this year has been richly rewarding but tough.
n Cyclopark will celebrate its birthday with a party on June 29 with a pedal-powered cinema, trick riders and cycling contests among other attractions. More details about the free event, which the public are invited to, will be published in the coming weeks on www.cyclopark.com