AN INDOOR skydiving experience has opened in Basingstoke – one of just three such centres in the country.
The £6million Airkix centre was built in just six-and-a-half months at Basingstoke Leisure Park, and it was ready for the public to use on June 22, following an official opening the previous day at which Basingstoke and Deane Mayor Councillor Dan Putty cut the ribbon.
The centre features a 14ft-wide super-fast wind tunnel, in which people can try out indoor skydiving.
It also has two Skiplex Ski slopes for people at any level to learn to ski or board, the UK’s first permanent Brushboarding slope, in which visitors can learn to surf without water, and Sim Car Racing, with two full motion sims with a variety of tracks and cars to choose from.
Simon Ward, chief executive of Airkix, said the wind tunnel was complete on June 10 and was used for 30 hours of training by the Italian military before it opened to the public.
He told The Gazette that the other two Airkix centres in Manchester and Milton Keynes attract around 55,000 flyers each year, and 30,000 visitors trying out the other experiences. He expects the Basingstoke centre to pull in similar numbers.
An online Groupon offer for Airkix skydiving, which included the new Basingstoke centre, sold 15,000 tickets and ensured the first few days of opening were busy for staff.
At the official opening, Mr Ward said: “We take the great outdoors and bring it indoors, and my do we need to do that with British summers.”
Mr Ward said the extra people coming into Basingstoke to visit Airkix would also bring custom to other businesses, including the restaurants.
Cllr Putty cut a ribbon around the wind tunnel, before instructors, including one dressed in a rabbit suit, gave an impressive skydiving display and cut a ribbon inside the tunnel.
The Mayor said: “This centre is actually getting our town on the map, and it’s unique in the south of England. I have the honour and privilege today to open this fantastic enterprise.”
Deputy council leader Cllr Ranil Jayawardena also spoke at the opening event. He told Mr Ward and his team: “I’m delighted that you have chosen Basingstoke to invest in.”