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First-year visitor numbers beat target at BikePark Wales in Merthyr

The UK’s first full-scale mountain bike park is celebrating a successful first year, having welcomed over 66,000 visitors – 30,000 more than anticipated.

Since opening at Gethin Woods near Merthyr Tydfil last year, BikePark Wales has also hosted two major tournaments: the 2013 Welsh Downhill Championships and the British Downhill Series in 2014.

BikePark Wales’ directors combined a Finance Wales loan with  funding from the Welsh Government including Visit Wales’ EU funded Sustainable Tourism project aimed at developing Cycling Centres of Excellence in South Wales. 

A successful first year has enabled BikePark Wales to repay part of its loan early.

Experienced mountain biker and Managing Director, Martin Astley is delighted with the park’s success and keen to build on its growing popularity.

“BikePark Wales was built by riders for riders to create the ultimate riding experience.  We offer lift-assisted trails for all abilities from beginner to pro and this has helped boost our visitor numbers.  Our goal is to host more international tournaments in Wales as BikePark Wales is one of only two UK sites that could host a World Cup round.

“Last year’s success proved there is a real appetite for mountain biking and we have some great plans for the next few years, including more trails for local bikers.  Finance Wales saw the commercial potential of mountain biking and their backing early on was crucial in helping us get our business off the ground,” Astley explained.

The investment has already helped BikePark Wales create 20 full and 8 part-time jobs.  Uniquely, it employs a full-time professional trail crew to maintain and develop its trails, ensuring it builds its competitive edge.

Congratulating BikePark Wales on its success, Economy Minister, Edwina Hart said: “I’m delighted that the Welsh Government has been able to support the development of BikePark Wales through the European Regional Development Fund and that this first year has been such a success.  BikePark is an iconic development for  Wales which is already raising the profile of South Wales as a mountain biking and cycling destination.. I’d like to congratulate both private and public sector partners on working together to realise this vision,  and wish the park every success for  future development.”

Investment Executive, Sam Macalister-Smith made Finance Wales’ loan to BikePark Wales.  He said: “BikePark Wales’ experienced management team are mountain-biking fanatics who understand the sport both as riders and business owners.  They’ve used their expertise to transform Gethin Woods into a must-visit destination for serious riders that’s quickly become part of the UK’s mountain-biking community.

“Combining their own capital with additional investment, they’ve built a business that appeals to its market and thanks to their vision has a great deal of potential for further expansion.   Added to this, BikePark Wales’ impact on the local economy in Merthyr is also increasing.”

With investment staff based throughout Wales, Finance Wales provides SMEs with a local service.  Portfolio Executive, Steve Elias has established a strong working relationship with the BikePark Wales team, providing them with on-going support as they build their business.

“BikePark Wales has benefitted from Finance Wales’ local approach and we’ve built an excellent relationship with our Portfolio Executive, Steve Elias.  He has been available to discuss business issues we’ve faced and this has been very valuable for us,” Astley said.

With mountain biking one of the world’s fastest growing outdoor activities, BikePark Wales was set up as a result of the Welsh Government’s plan to increase cycling tourism.  An estimated 2 million mountain bikes are now sold each year in the UK.

Finance Wales is keen to talk to more businesses in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area about their funding needs.  If you want to discuss how a loan from Finance Wales could help your business please call us on 0800 587 4140.