Aberdeen - why no bouldering wall?

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 scoth 30 Aug 2021

Established climbing community. Universal growing demand for indoor climbing. Two universities, lots of empty/suitable industrial spaces following oil downturn, (assume it's a buyers/renters market) So covid aside, I really cannot understand why there is no wall?

I'm confident if one was set up in the city it would be very successful.

p.s I don't really class the limited bouldering at TX or RGU as competition for a purpose built facility. 

 Andy Hardy 31 Aug 2021
In reply to scoth:

No idea, but students are not present all year, so you would need to have enough non student climbers in your prospective catchment area to make it work.

 Dangerous Dave 31 Aug 2021
In reply to scoth:

Hi Scoth,

My understanding of it is that is basically comes down to cost. Aberdeen business rates are really high and it would just not be viable. Transition extreme only exists due to some deal with the council and the fact its a charity. I don't know all the details of this.

Happy to be corrected on the above but I am sure that is the case.

It really is a shame as Aberdeen could easily support a 2nd wall and it would force TX to actually change their routes occasionally as currently they are a monopoly and there is no choice. I know that TCA looked into setting up in Aberdeen but I have no idea how far that went.

 jkarran 31 Aug 2021
In reply to Andy Hardy:

Don't urban bouldering walls in the modern style (bright, clean with a cafe, not cold damp sheds) pretty much make their own customer base by attracting new customers in with a very low cost/experience bar? They need some pre-existing potential customers to survive the start-up but they seem self sustaining once the local youth find them. Not cheap to start up though and in the uncertain age of covid, exposed to some significant additional risk which presumably makes finance harder to find and drives up cost.


In reply to scoth:

Isn't there a masterplan to redevelop the area of Aberdeen where Transition Extreme is?  If it's going to be shut for a while maybe there's an opportunity for a new wall to get established.

 StuDoig 01 Sep 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Theres a plan to revamp the beach area including a new Stadium for Aberdeen FC, but the drawings all seem to show Transition not being touched.  Given that the point of the revamp is to create a massive sports/leisure beachfront complex it would be a great opportunity though to look at new facilities as you won't have the stand alone costs for all the plant and civils work - though given transitions atrocious history in how the interact with the local climbing community I think it'd be better administered / run by Sport Aberdeen!

A bit more on their plans:

 scoth 01 Sep 2021
In reply to Dangerous Dave:

Ok, so sounds like same old story for Aberdeen, dominant oil industry, pushing up property prices leading high business rates means business growth is largely restricted to those associated with oil, so any other business is struggling from the start.

Given the demise of the oil industry, and falling property prices (I've lived here for 5 years and seen the drop) I wonder if for the likes of TCA etc. it's worth another look, because I totally agree the city could easily support a 2nd wall.

 scoth 01 Sep 2021
In reply to StuDoig:

It seem Aberdeen City Council are transfixed on building new stuff, rather than improving redesigning what is already there. I think I would prefer one of the many empty warehouses around the harbour to be the place for a new wall, even better if it was on the Torry side..less of a walk for me!

 Tobes 01 Sep 2021
In reply to scoth:

My shout would be somewhere between Aberdeen and Dundee - around South Aberdeenshire/Angus perhaps - Brechin community centre has a small wall but something purpose built in this general area would (and convenient for me!) be great. 

More folk working from home and less commuting between these two cities (in addition to many of the surrounding towns populations increasing) would mark it out as a very suitable. 

Add a decent cafe and like Ratho for example it would be worth the effort spent getting there

 ScraggyGoat 01 Sep 2021

Climbers in Aberdeen suggesting they are willing to pay cash, whatever happened to saving your hard earned and traversing the King George V bridge embankment wall, It seamed to be making a come back in lockdown…….

You think TX is bad (and it is, seams to be a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory after getting it built in the first place) reopen the beach wall, that will open a few eyes (and pop a few finger tendons).

 subtle 01 Sep 2021
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

Bouldering wall? The sea cliffs are all empty! Plenty of scope for bouldering,  just need to bring your own flask of coffee and a piece!

 Dangerous Dave 02 Sep 2021
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

reopen the beach wall, 

I loved the old beach wall, it was superb.

 tspoon1981 02 Sep 2021
In reply to Tobes:

> My shout would be somewhere between Aberdeen and Dundee - around South Aberdeenshire/Angus perhaps - Brechin community centre has a small wall but something purpose built in this general area would (and convenient for me!) be great. 

I've often thought the Hydrus buildings just before Brechin Castle Garden Centre would make a great location, well, great for me anyway. But anywhere from Laurencekirk to Brechin would be perfect if someone has a spare bit of land and funds.

In reply to tspoon1981:

The old leisure centre in Brechin would be nearly perfect. Only closed when the community centre opened at the school. Space for car parking and facilities already there. I've thought about it many times over the last few years, but lack of funds, experience and moving to Skye put it right to the back of mind.

 IceBun 04 Sep 2021
In reply to subtle:That’ll be great on a damp December night 😏

 IceBun 04 Sep 2021
In reply to scoth:

Much that I would love a proper bouldering wall in Aberdeen I am less convinced that it can support that and TX with its lead walls. The whole thing is complex and much is tied in to what others have said about historical rental prices and current usage designations. Aberdeen City Council have supported TX and I imagine any change of building use would have to be passed by whichever committee does that. If they perceived a commercial threat to the viability of TX - with its wider social enterprise aims - you can see that might present a barrier. So even if a suitable location with parking could be found at a decent rent then there are issues to overcome. 
Re the potential to support 2 walls, it should be feasible but TX is hardly rammed just now. Part of that is undoubtedly down to pricing and booking arrangements. There have also been long running issues with engagement with customers (or the lack of that) which, if resolved, could lead to an uptake in usage. There are green shoots on this front at present as they are currently putting a lot more effort into route setting. However, to my point, it’s not rammed and a bouldering competitor which would take away trade could lead to the demise of TX itself and the lead routes, though I could be wrong. Personally I would like both and the ideal would be a revamp of TX with a proper bouldering area but, short of a large injection of cash and/or ripping out the skatepark, it seems unlikely. But I’ve been wrong before.

Post edited at 09:16
 scoth 05 Sep 2021
In reply to IceBun:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Really interesting that you think ACC would present a barrier to others wanting to set one up. I can understand them wanting to protect TX, but it's a shame their benevolence doesn't extend to other communities in the city, such as folk in Torry and their plans to destroy St Fittcks Park, (especially given their past investment).

It's all speculation, but I reckon the city (+ drawing in folk from the shire) could support both a lead and bouldering wall. But TX would have to get it's act together. I've stopped going because there just doesn't seem much care/energy going into the wall. Holds are ancient, route setting is uninspiring and not much turnover of routes - all adds to a dull atmosphere (and all for one of the most expensive walls in the land). But hopefully as you say these green shoots will sprout into something. At the moment, winter is long in Aberdeen for a climber, whose enthusiasm for getting up at 4am in the morning for a drive down Deeside has waned  

 Alex1 06 Sep 2021
In reply to scoth:

Historically the barrier would have been the fact that suitable commercial space for climbing walls (industrial units etc.) would have been prohibitively expensive as they were all leased to oil companies. This situation has probably improved recently with the downturn and I would have thought someone must be able to compete with TX as it’s a really poorly run wall. Aberdeen is a bit of strange place though with quite a transitory population - I often wonder if this acts as a barrier with the type of person who might open a wall not wanting to settle there as other cities would be more attractive to live in (it’s an expensive city to be in if you’re not in oil, very remote if you’re not from there and still at least an hour away from ‘proper’ hills). The area is missing other obvious outdoors items as well such as proper bike trails etc.

 Arms Cliff 06 Sep 2021
In reply to IceBun:

As others have mentioned up thread, every new bouldering wall that I’ve seen open in cities (Leeds being my local example but you can look at Manchester too) has created  an almost completely new user base from local non climbers. As such the busyness or not of the current wall (which sounds poor from what I’ve read) will not directly implicate how successful a new and better enterprise could be. 

Change of use seems to be a huge hurdle for a lot of climbing wall developments, but I assume companies with several properties already like Depot, the Academies and the Vauxwall owners must be pretty well versed in the appropriate requirements from the council. I’ve not been up for ages, but is there not a lot of commercial premises becoming unoccupied with the reduction in work in the North Sea? 

In reply to scoth:

You think Aberdeen is bad... Inverness... Jesus.. the city that climbing forgot!

 mutt 07 Sep 2021
In reply to scoth:

on the face of it I'd say a bouldering wall would be successful, but none the less a risky investment given the presence of TX. For comparison Southampton has about the same population and the Rents are somewhat lower in Aberdeen. The local bouldering wall was set up when there was no competition within 20miles and it was a great success. However, although the core community at the wall remains loyal the new Partian wall has undoubtedly taken some of the client base. Parthian also appears to have a new set of climbers whom were never present in the existing facilities but none the less seem to be proficient so I can only assume that this new cohort comes form outside the city. And therein lies the risk. Two walls in the city probably needs to pull in climbers from the surrounding towns. Southampton is extremely well conntected to a much larger community of towns that aren't served by their own wall. So this I think is where Aberdeen presents a risky investment. It needs to generate a new community from within the city as it isn't well connected at all. And that community is demonstratably not willing to pay for climbing in a badly run expensive facility. Would they transfer wholeheartly to a new cheaper and better run facility? who can possibly know? That said, Milton Keynes has two high quality walls that are full. but again its very well connected.

 Flinticus 07 Sep 2021
In reply to mutt:

You could well be right.

Glasgow has three walls and a population of about 600,000 excluding the surrounding towns. 

That's 3 times Aberdeen's. 

 IceBun 08 Sep 2021
In reply to Alex1: You are doing us down😏 Lots of folk stay and have made a conscious choice because of the outdoor options with sea cliffs (trad, sport, bouldering, dws) within 20 mins of the city. An extensive range of mtb trails with these increasingly adopted and improved. Banchory, Aboyne, Ballater and Monymusk are effectively hubs for this.Quiet road biking and gravel, good access to the hills(albeit a long drive west), plenty of water sports options. 
What we do have is a fairly limited sphere of influence but it is still an extensive one. As per Arms Cliff’s comment, I don’t doubt a new bouldering wall would be a success. My concern is that it would have a significant impact on TX and we would soon lose that wall with its lead and bottom rope climbing. 

 IceBun 08 Sep 2021
In reply to scoth: plenty of outdoor sunny options right throughout the year  for trad, sport and bouldering. I too have lost the enthusiasm for the winter early starts but the coast easily fills my time throughout the year with visits to TX when forced to. I’m encouraged by the recent setting using Neil Shepherd, Ash and others. Hopefully it will keep going.

 mutt 09 Sep 2021
In reply to Flinticus:

I was pondering this problem .... how much bouldering can a population of 250000 support? I wonder if the answer lies in crowd  funding. take a punt say at 8000sqft costing £5/sqft per year, plus the inevitable rates, add in the staff costs and routesetting and hold renewal. And try and get crowd funding for say 4 months of running costs by advance sales of tickets and memberships. If the target is achieved then its clearly a viable prospect. 

Its a pity that bouldering walls can't be relocated though so any investment in wall and holds is non-recoverable if the enterprise fails. Or is that not the case? Can boulders be sold on and relocated?

In reply to scoth:

> Established climbing community. Universal growing demand for indoor climbing. Two universities, lots of empty/suitable industrial spaces following oil downturn, (assume it's a buyers/renters market) So covid aside, I really cannot understand why there is no wall?

Possibly a lot of the companies running chains of bouldering walls, particularly those which borrowed money to expand in the years before Covid are now having to watch their cash flow.  Some may have needed to take on more debt from government Covid schemes to get through.

The result of Covid is probably fewer people looking for opportunities to open new walls than there was a couple of years ago.  Hopefully the rough times will be over in a year or so and the natural growth of the sport will get people looking to expand again.

 Flinticus 10 Sep 2021
In reply to mutt:

I can't see why you could not implement a modular style approach to bouldering wall construction. Its just big wooden panels fixed to scaffolding usually.

 mutt 10 Sep 2021
In reply to Flinticus:

The bouldering walls on the south coast are knocked together off plan on a wooden framework.  Its fast and cheap. The 13 mm ply with t bolts is probs the bit that has value and would likely fit together again on a new frame. That said how many walls actually fail. One or two nationally in strange locations. Is my guess. So. Why don't you Aberdeene and Inverness climbers get together and build one. That's what we did in Southampton (albeit with an owner providing the capital)  and it's been done elsewhere. No need to wait for someone to open a wall for you.. 

 IceBun 11 Sep 2021
In reply to mutt: never thought of that 😏 The other complications described above have been barriers.

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