Competition hits climbing wall The Edge

Phil Robins at the former Abbeydale Cinema in Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, which he aims to turn into a climbing centre.
Phil Robins at the former Abbeydale Cinema in Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, which he aims to turn into a climbing centre.
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Sheffield’s second oldest indoor climbing wall has closed after 20 years due to intense competition in the city.

Business owner Phil Robins shut The Edge eight months after massive new facility Awesome Walls opened near Meadowhall in September.

It was the final nail for a wall which has hosted a generation of indoor lead climbers and boulderers.

Five full-time jobs were lost. It was also a base for several freelance instructors.

Phil said the premises, on John Street, which are owned by Go Outdoors, were impossible to expand to compete with other facilities.

The opening of the Climbing Works bouldering gym in Woodseats some years ago had decimated the bouldering trade.

And Awesome Walls’ arrival took the number of indoor walls in Sheffield to four, including The Foundry on Mowbray Street and The Matrix at Sheffield University.

The Edge opened in 1994 and Phil ran the business from 1995.

He said: “I’m sad – I’d been running the place for 20 years. A lot of people were sad, staff loved it and we had a lot of loyal customers.

“But not enough people were using it - I hadn’t paid myself a wage for four years.

“Things went downhill after Awesome Walls opened and there was an oversupply of climbing walls.

“There are some people owed money but it’s not like a manufacturing business going down with hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt.”

The Edge had 150 routes and featured a wall which could be set to overhang by 45 degrees. The bouldering wall was completely rebuilt in 1998 to double its size. Its boom years were 2000 to 2005, Phil added.

“It was very popular for those into roped climbing. But things move on, people get married or move away or stop climbing for whatever reason.

“When I’ve been round other walls in Sheffield in the evening they didn’t have more people in them. There were enough people doing it when there were three centres.

“Now, I think trade is split and there is one bouldering centre which is doing a very good job.

“It’s trendy, it’s got a good scene and competitions. It ticks a lot of boxes.”

Sheffield’s oldest climbing wall is The Foundry on Mowbray Street.

It opened in 1991 as the UK’s first dedicated indoor climbing centre.

Phil bought Abbeydale Picture house at auction in 2012 for £150,000 with the intention of turning it into a climbing wall. But now he says he wants to rent it to another operator.

“I bought it with the long term ambition of transferring The Edge business into it. But I have just closed one because it is not viable so after what’s happened I’d prefer to rent it for climbing - or some other activity.”

Abbey Snooker Club which has been in the basement for nearly 100 years closed recently after its lease was not renewed.

Phil said new tenants planned to open the basement as a music venue.