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Top 10 Reasons We Should Make the Climbing Gym Big Enough


Key to a gym that can serve the entire community is enough space. Current plans call for an 8,500 square-foot gym with ca. 11,000 square feet of climbing surface area, which is too small to meet the community’s needs.

Here are our Top 10 reasons the Rec Center climbing gym needs to big enough to meet the current and future needs of the community:

10. A good climbing gym will provide physical and mental health benefits that last a lifetime

  • People go to gyms out of guilt. They climb because it’s fun. Fun is a stronger motivator than guilt.
  • Climbing is a lifetime sport. You can do it when you’re 8, and you can do it when you’re 80.
  • Key to a fun gym experience is enough space. A 8,500-sq. ft. gym is too small.

9. A gym smaller than 10,000 square feet will necessitate a waiting list during peak hours

  • 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.

8. Climbing gyms are family friendly. Making gyms family friendly requires a key ingredient: enough space.

  • Climbing gyms are fun for parents and kids alike. When families climb together, it creates a bonding experience that can last a lifetime.
  • Rich Johnston, President of Vertical World, Inc., notes, “This morning a member called me—he has a daughter who just got into climbing. He said, you know, we do all sorts of sports. I can sit in the bleachers and watch her play soccer. It’s not engaging. Climbing is the best family thing we’ve done.
  • “It’s very, very family oriented. There are very few spots where the parents can hang out with their kids and do the sport together. It has an amazing impact on the family dynamic. I hear that all the time.”
  • Current designs for the Rec Center climbing gym will create a gym that’s too small to be family friendly.

7. Climbing is fun because it’s social—and social is healthy

  • 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.”
  • Rich Johnston notes, “If you look at any gym in any given moment, 75% of people are just hanging out. It’s social.”
  • 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.
  • A gym that’s social requires enough space. A 8,500-sq. ft. gym is too small to create a good social experience.

6. The bigger the gym, the better the community experience

  • 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
  • Key to a good gym is enough space. A 8,500-sq. ft. gym is too small to create adequate community space.

6. By engaging the entire community, a good climbing gym will help change the cultural narrative of who’s outside

  • Climbing rangers, guides, search and rescue members, families, Latinx community members and youth alike will use the gym. Because climbing is social, the boundaries of generational, cultural and racial separation disappear once the rope is shared
  • The interactions fostered by a good gym will strengthen relationships across different sectors of the community and help change the cultural narrative of who’s outside in Jackson Hole. This in turn will open doors for future outdoor leaders and stewards
  • Key to engaging the entire community is a good gym. Key to a good gym is enough space. A 8,500-sq. ft. gym is too small.

5. A good gym will enhance safety for guides, rangers, Search and Rescue and regular climbers alike

  • A good gym will all its users with a place to practice techniques and rescue scenarios
  • Beginners will be able to learn the skills and techniques necessary for safe adventures in the crags and mountains, reducing the human and financial costs of accidents
  • Key to a good gym is enough space. A gym that’s too small won’t enhance safety as much as a adequately sized gym

4. A good gym will generate revenue that can support other Parks and Recreation programs and amenities

  • The current Parks and Rec building recovers less than a third of its cost
  • 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
  • The bigger the gym, the more revenue it will generate to offset other Parks and Rec programming

3. A good gym will honor Jackson Hole’s legacy as the epicenter of American mountaineering

  • Every town has rec centers with ball courts and fitness studios; no one else has the Tetons, or our climbing legacy
  • The Teton Boulder Park is not only a unique tribute to Jackson’s climbing heritage. It’s the most popular amenity in Parks and Recreation’s catalogue and Trip Advisor’s #15 “Things to Do in Jackson Hole,” underscoring the natural prominence of climbing in our community
  • A community with a great climbing legacy should have a great gym. Key to a great gym is enough space.

2. A good gym will create a safe, healthy venue for youth 

  • Afterschool activities in Teton County are limited, which opens the door to unhealthy, unsafe activities.
  • Kids love to climb. A good climbing gym will provide positive options for youth activities after school, on weekends and during school holidays
  • Key to a good gym is enough space. A 8,500-sq. ft. gym will be too crowded to be fun, for kids as well as for adults

And the Number 1 Reason the Rec Center Climbing Gym should be bigger is…

1. The Rec Center climbing gym will have more users than The Enclosure did.

  • The Enclosure Climbing Gym, which had 700 members when it closed in 2014, was 12,000 square feet
  • Climbing’s popularity has exploded since The Enclosure closed. Films like Free Solo and the inclusion of climbing in the Olympics will only add to this trend
  • The Rec Center’s downtown location will attract more tourists that the Enclosure did
  • More people will use the Rec Center climbing gym than The Enclosure because it’s a public facility

Let’s make our climbing gym great, for this and future generations!

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