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Ski centre developer not worried by rival
Tuesday, 16 March 2004
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THE developer behind a 7m plan to build a huge indoor ski dome on Southport seafront last night insisted there is room for two snow centres in Merseyside.

The claim comes after the Daily Post revealed plans for a similar sports facility on the opposite banks of the Mersey, at the former Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead.

But Russel Oakden, who claims he is on the verge of signing a deal with Sefton Council, says he is also quietly confident that the Wirral dome will never be built.

He told the Daily Post he believes people will not want to visit Birkenhead as a leisure destination.

"At the end of the day the politicians and the MPs aren't very keen on the Cammell Lairds deal, and also the unions aren't very keen because they just want the shipbuilding back.

Mr Oakden, who owns the Shandon care home in Southport, was granted an exclusive option to research the project by Sefton planners, just over a year ago.

Last night he revealed he is preparing to present a business case to build a 25-30 metre high indoor ski slope with an attached ice rink and casino, to Sefton Council in mid-May.

The borough has already included the dome in promotional images of how the Southport seafront will look after an anticipated 50m injection to the resort by 2008.

The dome is expected to draw in between 6,000 and 7,000 visitors a week.

Mr Oakden added: "The difference is that when people get off the train at Southport they come to be entertained."

Even so, he insisted: "Most certainly there is potentially room for both domes. There is plenty of scope for both of us. It depends how you target your market.

"They are talking about an ice rink and so are we, but we will also be using it as a facility for people to enjoy galas and ice shows."

The Southport plans also include building the only snowboarding "half pipe" - a semi circular curved platform to facilitate trick jumps - outside Norway.

It also includes a snow area for skiing and tobogganing, an ice rink and casino.

But the consortium behind the Wirral plans has hit back claiming it will transform Birkenhead into a tourist hotspot.

Mike Ryder, from Reddington Finance, said: "We wish them every success in their plans.

"However, we have chosen the most experienced indoor snow operators in the country and believe the plans will prove a big draw for the North West and beyond. We want to enhance the area and want to turn it into a tourist attraction in line with the local plan."

Mr Oakden added: "We are not deterred at all by the Wirral plan, if it comes down to it then it will be between us and them.

"We will be looking to specialise with snowboarding, tobogganing, sledging, we want to get away from the traditional skier and leaning towards a more populist activity."

He said he is also in negotiations for backing from a US casino company and endorsements from a Canadian snowboarding team.

By Deborah James Daily Post Staff



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