Sheffield can this week claim to have achieved its ambition of being recognised as the outdoor capital city in the UK.
A study by Sheffield Hallam University has found that activities such as climbing, cycling, mountain biking, walking and running generate more than £53m a year for the local economy as well as encouraging people to be fit and healthy.
Some 66 per cent of people in Sheffield take part in outdoor recreation – more than 6 per cent above the national average.
The city has the highest household spend on outdoor equipment in the country, and more than 200 outdoor equipment businesses.
Now its status has been reflected in it being selected to host two major events next year – the European Outdoor Summit and the International Adventure Conference.
The independent study, commissioned by the council and carried out by Hallam’s Sport Industry Research Centre, will be used as a platform to try to further build Sheffield’s reputation.
Cabinet member Coun Leigh Bramall said: “It is crucial that we capitalise upon this research and work with stakeholders across all sectors to position Sheffield as the outdoor capital of the UK, which will bring – and is already bringing – huge financial benefits.”
A long-term target is to turn the former Ski Village at Parkwood Springs into an urban country park.
The loss of the ski slopes was a blow to Sheffield’s image as a city of sport and continues to be lamented by some enthusiasts.
The Hallam study confirms that Sheffield continues to benefit from its mix of outdoor and urban life, ideally placed to take advantage of the UK’s annual £1.4bn outdoor recreation market.
Local businesses doing well in the outdoors industry include Go Outdoors, the UK’s largest specialist retailer of camping equipment, tents, outdoor clothing and footwear, and Planet X, which sells more than 10,000 bicycle products worldwide and is currently the second-biggest bike assembler in the UK.
Sheffield has more than 10,000 climbers and the highest number of climbing businesses compared to other big UK cities. It has more than 1,200 members in the Sheffield Ramblers and 26 running clubs, along with a strong fell running scene. It is nationally renowned for mountain biking.
The 2015 European Outdoor Summit is being hosted by the Outdoor Industries Association. Chief executive Andrew Denton said: “The city is at the heart of the UK’s outdoor scene and has a bold ambition around outdoor recreation – it’s the perfect location.”
The council’s updated outdoor strategy will be launched at the conference.
Dr Larissa Davies, reader in sport management in Hallam’s Sport Industry Research Centre, said: “In the year when the Tour de France came to South Yorkshire, it is really pleasing to see Sheffielders participating so enthusiastically in a wide range of outdoor sports. This report highlights the potential of the outdoor economy in terms of generating economic growth and jobs, with household spending on outdoor equipment more than three times the UK average.”