CELEBRATING THE PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE OF TETON CLIMBING

Contact Us: (307) 690-1561

Monthly Archives: May 2020

We’d Rather Be Higher Happy Hours

Want to learn more about the climbing gym, or contribute your ideas to the TCC? Join us every Tuesday from 6-8 at the Teton Boulder Park for the (socially distant) “We’d Rather Be Higher” happy hours. Meet the TCC board, hear where we’re headed, and share your thoughts and ideas for ways to make the Teton climbing community great again!

The Climbing Gym: How You Can Help

We have conducted more than 70 hours of research on climbing facilities around the country, identifying best practices and attributes that will ensure the climbing gym meets our community’s needs. 

Our research identified that trying to fit the climbing gym into 5,750 square feet would create a negative user experience. This in turn would be a poor expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

  • The Enclosure Climbing Gym had 10,000 square feet of climbing space. When it closed in 2014, it had 700 members and had up to 50-100 people in the facility at any given time.
  • Canada’s premier mountaineering town, Canmore, has a population of 13,992. Its gym, Elevation Place, which opened in 2013 as part of the community’s rec center, offers 11,000 square feet of climbing surface. Because it’s in a community center, Elevation Place has thousands of members. 
    • “We should have made our gym bigger because there’s always a wait list,” said Brian Spear, the Climbing Coordinator for the Town of Canmore.  “It’s too busy for a positive experience, so we make them wait. People who work M-F 9-5 are always on the waitlist.”

Want to help? The single most important thing you can do is to reach out to your elected officials.

We’ve created a handy dandy cheat sheet of all the reasons why 5,750 square feet is too small. All you need to do is pick an item or two that resonate with you, drop them into an email and push send—or pick up the phone and give your favorite elected official a shout.

They’d love to hear from you, and the climbing community will forever be in your debt!

Teton County Commissioners

Natalia D. Macker: nmacker@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8406

Greg Epstein: gepstein@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8404

Mark Newcomb: mnewcomb@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8407

Luther Propst: lpropst@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8405

Mark Barron: mbarron@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8403

All Commissioners: commissioners@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 733-8094

Town of Jackson Elected Officials

Pete Muldoon, Mayor: pmuldoon@jacksonwy.gov

Jonathan Schechter: jsforjh@gmail.com

Jim Stanford: jstanford@jacksonwy.gov

Hailey Morton Levinson: hmortonlevinson@townofjackson.com

Arne Jorgenson: ajorgensen@hawtinjorgensen.com

All TOJ Elected Officials: council@jacksonwy.gov.

Here’re all the glorious reasons the gym needs to be big enough to create a positive user experience:

  • Climbing’s popularity is exploding.
    • From 2012-2017, the growth of the indoor climbing wall industry was 39% greater than that of the gym, health, and fitness clubs industry over the same period.
    • In the last couple of years, the debut of films like The Dawn Wall and the Oscar-Award winning Free Solo has only accelerated that growth
    • Climbing will make its debut in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. According to the industry research company IBIS, this “is anticipated to accelerate interest in climbing, driving demand for indoor climbing wall operators.”
  • Climbing is social, which is healthy.
    • A 2018 national survey by Cigna reported that loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. 
    • A meta-analysis, co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, reports “loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.”
    • Climbing gyms address both obesity and social isolation better than traditional gyms. They’re outstripping the fitness market for a reason: they’re fun—and they’re fun because they’re social.
  • Climbing gyms are family friendly. 
    • Parents and kids can participate together, creating a bonding experience that can last a lifetime.
    • Children who begin climbing improve rapidly, often outclimbing their parents within a few years of starting
  • Climbing gyms, done right, create a safe, healthy venue for youth. 
    • If they are open after school, on the weekends and during times, such as summers, when schools are closed, they provide a trouble-free, positive alternative to other “entertainment” options.
    • A good gym will not only connect kids and parents. It will also connect kids to a healthy pursuit that will last the rest of their lives, to positive role models and to a lifestyle pathway that’s congruent with Jackson’s mountain legacy and traditions. 
  • Climbing engages the whole community
    • The climbing gym can serve as a catalyst to better connect with and understand our large immigrant Latino population. The boundaries of racial/cultural separation disappear once the rope is shared.
    • Our Latino community deserves to share in our outdoor adventures, our stories, and the transcendent power of the outdoors/ the creation of leaders and stewards.
  • Key to community engagement is space
    • Community space is one of the most important considerations for a gym. The best gyms design the climbing experience around the social experience. (“If you look at any gym in any moment, 75% of people are just hanging out. It’s social.)
    • Open designs yield the best community/social experience, as well as better route-setting access and better flow.
    • A well-designed gym that incorporates community space can use the space for events, film screenings, music, art, and other community gatherings
  • A good gym will generate revenue that can support other Parks and Recreation amenities
    • The Enclosure Climbing Gym generated $500,000-700,000/year in revenue
    • Canmore’s Elevation Place community climbing center generates $100,000 in shoe and harness rentals alone
  • Climbing gyms enhance safety for guides, rangers, Search and Rescue and regular climbers alike
    • A well-designed gym permits guides, climbing rangers and search and rescue team members with a place to practice rescue scenarios
    • Beginning climbers can learn the skills and techniques necessary for safe outings in the crags and mountains around town
  • Making gyms fun, family friendly and social requires a key ingredient: space. A 5,750 sq. ft. gym is too small. 

There are two options for making the gym the right size:

  • The first is to merge the climbing gym and the fitness studios into a single, 13,400 square-foot rectangular space. 
    • The fitness studios could go inside a large rectangular structure at the center of the building. The outside of the same structure would serve as the climbing walls. 
    • Bouldering walls could be placed around the outer perimeter of the space, with the indoor track for seniors placed above them. The mezzanine entrance could become a vibrant community space all its own. 
    • With proper allocation of square footage, the mezzanine could double as a unique space for community events such as film screenings, talks and performances, providing a ca. 150-person venue unlike any currently in our community.
  • Another option is the “gym swap:” reallocating the 7,650 square feet for the fitness facilities to the climbing gym, moving the non-essential climbing spaces, such as bathrooms, the hold room and the front desk, out of the climbing gym space proper, and retaining leading industry consultants to create the most dynamic, community-centric facility possible. 
    • 5,750 square feet is more than enough space to create a walking track for seniors and fitness-related programming at attainable price points for the entire community.

Climbing Gym Too Small, Research Indicates

In the November 2019 election, Teton County voters approved $22,000,000, via the SPET initiative’s Proposition #9, for “Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center Expansion and Renovation, Community Climbing Gym, King Street Extension, and Stormwater Treatment.”

To assist with the development of the climbing gym, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition (TCC) conducted more than 70 hours of research on climbing facilities around the country, identifying best practices and attributes that will help ensure the Rec Center climbing gym meets the community’s needs.

The research was complemented by extensive discussion among community members regarding attributes and priorities they would like to see included in the gym’s development.

A key observation from the research was that the proposed 5,750 square feet proposed for the gym will create a “negative user experience.”

The Enclosure Climbing Gym, a 10,000-square foot facility owned and operated by Andy Laakmann, closed in 2014. At the time of its close, the gym had 700 members, generated $500-700k/year in revenue and had 50-100 people in the facility at any given time. 

Given the increase in Teton County population and in climbing’s popularity, demand today is higher than it was ten years ago.

Smaller but similar to Jackson, Canada’s premier mountaineering town, Canmore, has a population of 13,992. Its gym, Elevation Place, which opened in 2013 as part of the community’s rec center, offers 11,000 square feet of climbing surface. Because it’s in a community center, Elevation Place has thousands of members. 

“We should have made our gym bigger because there’s always a wait list,” said Brian Spear, the Climbing Coordinator for the Town of Canmore.  

“It’s too busy for a positive experience, so we make them wait. People who work M-F 9-5 are always on the waitlist.”

Other takeaways from the TCC’s research were as follows:

  • Climbing gym consultants should be retained as early as possible to create positive user experience, optimize ROI, minimize cost overruns and delays and ensure the gym meets current and future community needs. 
  • A good climbing gym will generate revenue that can support other Parks and Recreation programs and amenities
    • The Enclosure Climbing Gym generated $500,000-700,000/year in revenue
    • Canmore’s Elevation Place community climbing center generates $100,000 in shoe and harness rentals alone
  • Because of the impact chalk can have on air quality throughout a rec center, HVAC that addresses chalk filtration and temperature destratification should be planned into the initial building design

The research also underscored the opportunity to provide a safe, healthy venue for local youth, change the cultural narrative for Jackson’s Latino population and enhance safety for guides, rangers, Search and Rescue and regular climbers alike.

The research was shared with Teton County Parks and Recreation in early March, and with Jackson and Teton County elected officials in April.

Climbing During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Access Fund has published the following infographic to help climbers navigate the pandemic. Staying safe and staying healthy has never been so important. Thanks, AF!