From local kids to Olympic athletes, everyone's welcome at Graystone Action Sports
It’s a ginormous 35,000 sq ft and is so special people from across the world visit Salford to use it. But Graystone Action Sports is still relatively unknown locally, relying mainly on word of mouth to grow its clientele since launching in December 2018.
A world-class destination for athletes and kids, its sport facilities are unrivalled in the UK: skate, scooter, BMX, ski, snowboard and (new for this year) trampolines, gymnastics, cheer and parkour - think bounding from one platform to another and running up slopes a la Spiderman.
There’s more. Bouldering walls will soon be underway, while potential further plans include outdoor and play areas, a wall for speed climbing - which makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo this year - and even an additional floor. Oh, and there’s a well-stocked shop too.
Graystone is a magnet for athletes and now hosts several major sporting events (more on that later). But it’s also making a big difference to local schools, families and businesses. From corporate events to summer camps, pay and play sessions to parties - plus weekly lessons for both adults and children - inspiring multiple generations to have fun and get active is where the ambitious site excels.
It’s not just adrenaline sports either: regular classes span yoga to media creation and there’s even a wellbeing specialist. Need a massage? Want to learn Muay Thai? They’ll sort you out.
Unlike many other centres of its type, where dining is just a side thought, Graystone also boasts a quality café bar and restaurant. We’re told its chef previously helmed an acclaimed Kent gastropub and his fish and chips are ‘award-winning’ (best get Gordo there rapido). The eatery, which serves up light bites and hearty mains, also features a view over the arena and is licensed too; handy for parents who fancy a drink while watching their children’s antics below.
Kevin Gray and Ben Livingstone are the ambitious entrepreneurs behind Graystone, which they launched after raising more than £200K through crowdfunding as well as securing various loans and investments. The two co-founders, both action sports athletes, met over 20 years ago working ski seasons in the French Alps.
Gray, who still manages an Alpine hotel with his wife in the winter months, was inspired by his son - a keen biker, skater and hopeful Olympic freestyle snowboarder - to launch Graystone after identifying a lack of venues for elite level British athletes; many of whom have to hone their skills abroad. With world-class facilities and coaching from leading professionals, he also hopes to inspire children and athletes of all ages and abilities.
Unsurprisingly Graystone has become a beacon for action sports, right down to developing pursuits like wheelchair motocross and new gymnastics such as acroyoga and tricking. It also hosts several major events, most significantly the British skateboarding championships. Held later this month, the Olympics qualifier will include Sky Brown; a skateboarding prodigy who’s set to become the UK’s youngest ever Olympian this summer at just twelve years old.
Community happenings are another staple. These include Coping, an event designed to raise awareness of mental health stigma in extreme sports following recent suicide tragedies like Ben Raemers and Dave Mirra. Last year featuring creative workshops, auctions, competition and ‘street art’ - as well as DJ sets from the likes of Mr Scruff - it will return to Graystone for 2020.
Ever ambitious, the Graystone team ultimately plan to open more venues across the UK. But why choose this location for their first?
“A lot of people don’t know but the North West actually has a huge skate scene,” Gray says. “As for the building, it’s the size we wanted (rare to find!) and just a short walk from Manchester city centre.”
Our only quibble? The former warehouse, on Brunel Ave industrial estate, isn’t pedestrian-friendly - surely a priority with current attempts to reduce cars in cities. Otherwise, Graystone is undoubtedly a force for good: addressing a need for professional UK sports facilities, helping children get active and uniting local communities.
We think it’s time this place stopped being a secret…
Graystone Action Sports, Brunel Ave, Salford M5 4BE