High ropes courses are a high energy, interactive and family-orientated activity increasingly found in sport and leisure centres, holiday parks and visitor attractions to name but a few.
Innovative Leisure has completed more than 300 installations and demand continues to grow. Managing director of Innovative Leisure, Phil Pickersgill explains why.
“Increasingly, parents are valuing shared, memorable experiences to create with their kids and high ropes courses suit this trend because they offer a fun, physical, challenging experience for almost all age groups, including the parents.
“Some of the projects we have completed have been funded by local authorities under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, where authorities are seeking to engage local communities in outdoor activities,” he says.
Case study - The Tees Barrage International White Water venue
Stockton Borough Council and the operator of the centre wanted to enhance their offering of adventure activities and introduce an exciting high ropes facility for the whole family. The result is one of the largest ever high ropes courses completed by Innovative Leisure.
Standing 17m high, the four level, eight pole adventure course is built on a peninsular in the middle of the River Tees. It offers more than 40 activity elements between 4m and 15m off the ground. It caters for up to 70 participants per session, with 60 participants able to enjoy the main Sky Trail experience at one time.
The patented, fully automated ‘zip experience’ installation also features the UK’s first Sky Rail, the latest in zipping technology. It Truns parallel to the course and features two Sky Rails on levels one and two which allow for users to zip from one launch pad to the next without disconnecting from the system at any time.
There is also a six pole, nine element Sky Tykes course - a scaled down Sky Trail – for families with children aged two years old and under 1.22m.
Increasing dwell time and secondary spend
Pickersgill says “I often talk in design meetings about how much hourly and repeat business the course is required to achieve and the progressive challenges an operator might want to design into it. Course elements get harder on each level the higher you go. On the junior courses the hardest element is always the furthest away from the start so youngsters build up to it. On large courses the activities get harder as you progress up the levels.
“The ‘hook’ to return to challenge yourself even further is very powerful. Some kids get back on the ground and 30 minutes later want to have another go to try and go to the next level. It’s human nature.”
The Sky Trail courses are free roaming allowing for a different experience each visit, which helps to encourage repeat visits.
From an operational point of view, the courses can be used as an additional pay attraction or as part of the entry price to a venue.
Durability of courses
Consisting of a steel frame and with active elements made from a combination of steel and/or recycled plastic and/or polymer rope with a steel core, the courses have a long life., unlike a wooden course prone to rot. Innovative Leisure’s Sky Trail courses, which are galvanised and painted, will last between 30 and 50 years.
Health & safety
"Safety is ensured through a lot of R&D, strong quality control during production, care in the installation and commissioning processes, third party inspection and certification by an ADIPS registered inspector,” says Pickersgill.
Staff must also complete a two-day course, including a written test, before they are certified to operate a course.
Boundary breaking designs
High ropes courses can be made in almost limitless size, scale and design.
“We are constantly breaking new boundaries with new designs, themes, challenges and features which either come from the manufacturer or from customers challenging us to do new things,” says Pickersgill.
Optimising the location
“We’ve placed courses strategically to suit the flow of visitors to alleviate congestion on busy days and provide benefits to the venue as a whole. We look at what percentage of people a venue might need to go through a course per hour. This, along with their target age profile influences the design, the practicalities of space for indoor installations and access for both indoor and outdoor projects,” he says.
Bear Grylls Adventure
The new Merlin Entertainments Bear Grylls Adventure at the NEC in Birmingham is an example of how Innovative Leisure have been able to design unique challenges not possible in a forest based attraction.
At five storeys high, this is the tallest free-roam high ropes course in Europe. Grylls wanted to repeat key aspects of the Royal Marine Commando Tarzan course at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, Lympstone, to create a structure that challenges visitors both physically and mentally, the higher they go. Featuring 36 different challenges, the course takes participants to over 20m above the ground at the highest level.
Among the key features of the course are a Rolling Log on the top level which is particularly challenging, the Swinging Beam that moves all over as you step on it and others seen for the first time in Europe, such as Squid Steps. The high ropes course area is accessed via a heli-zip wire from The Bear Grylls Adventure Chinook helicopter.
Innovative Leisure is looking to introduce more of these ‘hero’ challenges to courses in the future as the UK’s demand for high ropes courses looks set to continue.