A.C.E. Target Sports Blog #1 January 2023- A Design For Life
I have been asked several times recently why are you rebuilding your workplace? Why go to all that effort? What was wrong with it before?
I have asked myself similar questions both out loud and in my head too. On wet and windy days, when something during our marathon Winter long build project has not gone to plan, I have asked myself why a few times.
The old layout of A.C.E Target Sports on Struan Road operated from February 2016 to September 2022. We offered Fully Instructed Archery, Axe Throwing, Airgun and Clay Target Shooting experiences. Prior to A.C.E. moving to the site it was a Paintball centre for eight years and we continued running paintball until 2018. Then I made the biggest mistake of the whole decade, Airsoft, the less said about that the better. When I look back on the Airsoft years at A.C.E. I cringe about how we were destroying the natural environment.
The basic facilities consisted of a car park and toilet. Plus several upcycled shipping containers, portacabins and temporary timber shelters. All very rustic. We had no mains electricity or water – a completely off grid office. The plot consists of 10 acres of Birch, Alder and Hazel woodland with a burn running through it, teaming with wildlife, hence no more paintball or Airsoft in there.
During the first 6 years at A.C.E Base it made a lot of families, couples, friends, stag and hen parties and work colleagues very happy. It was one of the best and most unique things to do on the Isle of Skye, especially on a rainy day. It worked, mostly!
It paid my mortgage and a few great holidays in what was a relatively comfortable and happy life. I also believe that the business made a small difference in the local community.
That stability was never a guarantee. A.C.E 1.0 was a six year proof of concept which took three years to really take off. I remember saying to myself the day I signed the lease on the land with a shaky pen, ‘Lets see if anyone wants to come and hang out with me and my Axes before building too much.
There was hard work, there was blood sweat and tears and there was some serious financial investment. However, compared to what was to come during Autumn and Winter 2022 this was a dress rehearsal for A.C.E. 2.0
For a start, the new facilities have been designed, initially on a napkin by myself in consultation with the very patient instructing team. Then officially drawn by the wonderful and equally patient Richard Neath. The old days of picking up the tools and seeing what timber we have laying around are largely of the past, but never completely forgotten, this is A.C.E afterall, the upcycled shanty town vibe was our USP.
If the original Base could realistically have been ‘tweaked’ and retrofitted with a few key features to make it workable, top of the list would have been ground drainage. Followed by hard ground surfaces and lastly flashing and guttering on shelter roofs. Not the kind of details an inexperienced self taught bodger tends to consider. These are also not the kind of things you yearn for on a bright Summer’s day but on the other 325 days of the year they are the dream for anyone running outdoor activities in the Scottish Highlands. So the first three bullet points on Richards’ design brief were drainage, surfaces, and guttering.
That design went through several iterations. In 2017 the plan was a 900 sqm green barn, the kind you see dotted around the crofts of Skye every couple of miles. This was an Indoor A.C.E. with no weather considerations. The absolute dream. Then COVID 19 hit and being indoors was not trendy. Suddenly being outdoors was part of what kept us afloat. The next idea was to build a barn out of shipping containers, loads of them, that idea really tested Richard’s patience.
Towards the end of one of the lockdowns, I forget which one, I knuckled down and came up with a new design, a typical shooting range, all in a line like it should be. It was to be located on a separate part of the plot leaving the shanty town standing. This design even had planning permission and building warrant consent, meaning when the money to build was ready we could go ahead. The outside world then seemed to fall apart even further, costs spiralled out of control and business took a small dip.
To go through the whole process again with a redesign and planning consent seemed like an expensive kick in the teeth. But my instinct told me that it was worth it to scale down the project and evaluate what we actually need. ‘Let’s use shipping containers, we already have a couple, hold on..we want bigger, so let’s use five shipping containers!’
It was actually my full time Instructor and live-in caretaker who came up with the basis for the design for A.C.E 2.0 (version 3).I then later put it on a napkin and handed to Richard promising that we will actually build this one if you can just get it green lighted.
Green lit it was, as late as August 2022. So in September after a wet, fun and distinctly average season financially, the gate to A.C.E Base 1.0 closed for the final time. We have promised to open in Spring 2023 completely changed, bigger, simpler layout, double down on the upcycling and renewable energy, better protection from the notorious Skye weather, neater, keep the handmade upcycled style, just use more experienced hands to build it right.
What followed was a memorable Hebridean winter for so many reasons, not least the weather.
Six months, two full time workers and their extended support network of family and the rest of the wonderful A.C.E Team, no mains electricity or water, a very loose plan and a lot of coffee.
Before the new Base could be built the old one had to be demolished, that would be a blog in itself. So you will hopefully join me soon for that and I can explain further.
Owner & Head Instructor
A.C.E Target Sports, Isle of Skye