Greetings paddlers! We hope you are all keeping well.
You will be excited to hear that this post introduces the first steps we are taking towards a possible reopening of the course for white water paddling sessions only, starting in July. We must emphasise though, there are a number of factors that influence this decision and whilst we are keen to reopen, it’s important that we do so in the right way. A huge part of this process is understanding your thoughts and views, and your feedback is extremely important to us. Please take the time to read through the post and submit your response via the short online survey.
Just like you, we are passionate about watersports and have shared in your frustrations whilst the centre has been closed – we know how valuable the course is to our paddling community across the region and we are all eager to return to the water. We are committed to being as open and transparent as we can be and hope that you can appreciate the complexities surrounding reopening in these unusual circumstances.
It’s important to understand that as an outdoor activity provider we make most of our income during the spring and summer months, so it will come as no surprise to hear that the pandemic has had a huge financial impact on the company. We have already lost a quarter of the expected income and we anticipate this will rise to 80% by the end of the year. Like many businesses, we now need to assess the situation to ensure we can return in a safe and responsible way, whilst considering the financial viability of any activities in the short term to ensure we don’t add any further financial pressure that might adversely affect your paddling in the long term.
We are in regular talks with our partners from the watersports community and have been closely following government guidance to ensure we can implement the necessary measures to safeguard our staff and customers once we reopen. This, of course, means changing how we operate and adapting to new guidelines and procedures. It would be irresponsible for us to try and do too much too soon. Like many leisure operators, a phased approach to resuming multiple activities is beneficial to monitoring usage levels and progressing accordingly.
When the time comes to reopen things will undoubtedly look different – we will be closing all changing facilities temporarily, there may be one way systems in place and all activities will need to be booked online in advance. We’ll also be introducing additional hygiene measures across the site and, unfortunately, it is essential that we limit the capacity and duration of sessions in order to meet social distancing guidelines – doing so will allow us to manage and assess the flow of customers in the first instance of reopening. These are the steps we will need to take, and we trust you will understand our need to introduce these additional measures.
Finally, Tees Barrage is an extremely complex and expensive facility to operate due to the high energy costs associated with pumping water around the course and expensive plant & equipment servicing and repair costs. Like other UK man made pumped white water courses, the changes we will need to make, coupled with the capacity restrictions we must introduce to operate safely, means we are unable to offer paddling sessions without incurring significant financial losses. Under normal circumstances, the revenue generated by rafting and other commercial activities would absorb these financial pressures and enable all paddlers to enjoy time on the water. However, lifting the social distancing restrictions are essential before we can resume a more extensive programme. We know there’s very little water in the rivers, so we want to make sure you have some paddle time this summer, therefore we’re exploring all options to reopen for you but without burdening more financial pressure on the centre.
We have a strong paddling community in the North and we’d like you to help us by completing the survey before Monday 6th July to enable us to assess demand. Please share it with your paddling friends and keep an eye out for further updates on the page. Access the survey here
The Tees Barrage team