Kelpies’ centre will be bigger and later

Helix Park. Kelpies floodlit.Pic by Michael Gillen
Helix Park. Kelpies floodlit.Pic by Michael Gillen

The new visitor centre being built next to the Kelpies at Grangemouth’s Helix Park is set to be even bigger.

However, it will now open later than expected.

Members of Falkirk Council’s executive committee agreed to add £160,000 from an existing budget to increase the area available for retail, storage and staff at the centre, currently under construction.

The new spend is expected to take the overall cost to around £1.8 million.

In December it was revealed the building – featuring a café, shop, toilets and exhibition area – was due to open later this summer.

The August opening will now be pushed back for the additional work and, all going well, it should be ready for the school holidays in October.

Bo’ness councillor Adrian Mahoney, Falkirk Council’s spokesman for culture, leisure and tourism said: “I’m looking forward to seeing the new building being completed.

“Work is progressing well on-site and hopefully we will be operational later this year.

“The centre will provide welcome new facilities to the Helix Park to deal with the huge numbers of people visiting the site and seeing the awesome Kelpies.”

The additional spend will come from the existing Helix budget, allocated by Falkirk Community Trust which will run the visitor centre for project partners Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals.

A report by director of development services, Rhona Geisler, said: “Visitor numbers to the Helix, and the Kelpies in particular, have far exceeded expectations in the first year of opening of the facility which were estimated at 350,000 per year.

“Up to the end of September 680,000 visited the site and it is projected that in the first full year (up to end March 2015) visitor numbers will exceed 950,000.

“Falkirk Community Trust has also reported increased trading activity during this period.

“In common with any new attraction, visitor numbers are expected to drop off slightly during the first few years of operation.

“It is anticipated annual numbers will be in excess of 700,000 which is double the original expectation. And one in seven will make use of the visitors centre.”

Rhona said rescheduling the opening outside the peak months would allow staff to be more familiar with its set up and the Trust to resolve any teething issues.

She added: “The ideal opening time for this facility is in the quieter months.”

The Trust will continue to run temporary visitor facilities on site meantime.