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Rec Center Climbing Gym Moving in Right Direction, Still Too Small

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N.B.: The climbing gym will be discussed on Oct. 4 during a public meeting of elected officials. If you would like to voice your support for a climbing gym big enough to accommodate our community’s current and future needs, see here.

On Sept. 1, Teton County Parks and Recreation Department (“Parks & Rec”) hosted a (virtual) climbing gym stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the Teton County Recreation Center climbing gym project.

The gym’s architects, builders, owner’s agent and independent climbing wall consultants all participated in the presentation, which focused on preliminary designs.

Also present were members of The Teton Climbers’ Coalition (“TCC”), which has been working with Parks & Rec to ensure the gym meets the community’s needs. Central to the TCC’s recommendations for the gym is the development of one big enough to accommodate both current and future demand.

The TCC has welcomed the efforts taken by Parks & Rec to incorporate its recommendations into the gym’s development, including the retention of an independent climbing wall consultant company and increasing the gym’s size from the initial allocation of 5,750 square feet to the current allocation 8,500 square feet.

Parks & Rec retained Entre-Prises (“EP”) as the independent climbing wall consultant company in May. During the Sept. 1 presentation, the TCC was encouraged by EP’s preliminary designs, which were creative, efficient and maximized the square footage while still incorporating social space—a key ingredient to a successful gym. 

The TCC’s central concern, however, remains unchanged. For the reasons noted here, the amount of space allocated to the climbing gym remains inadequate, and will likely result in wait lists to manage crowding and demand.

Teton County has a population of ca. 23,000 people. The preliminary designs for the Rec Center gym presented on Sept. 1 feature 10,940 total square feet of climbing surface area.

For context, Canmore, in Alberta, Canada, has a population of ca. 14,000. Their rec center climbing gym, Elevation Place, features 11,000 sq. ft. of climbing surface area.

Because Elevation Place is too small to meet the needs of the community, a wait list is used to manage demand.

Upon further review of the preliminary designs, the TCC believes a number of steps can be taken to allocate additional square footage to the gym without adversely affecting the expansion’s other programming.

The preliminary designs for the gym include a meeting room. There are at least 15 public meeting venues around Jackson currently available to the public. See here. 

The meeting room in the rec center plans is thus redundant. The TCC believes the space should be allocated to the climbing gym, which will be in daily use, instead.

The TCC furthermore encourages Parks & Rec to explore additional efficiencies in design revisions in order to allocate more square footage to the gym.

Possible ways to do so include the following:

  • Consolidate Parks and Rec Offices
    • Space in the gym area is allocated for offices for Parks and Rec personnel (at a time when Parks and Rec cannot fill all their positions)
    • The offices for Rec Center Manager and Customer Service could be moved into adjacent areas outside the gym’s footprint, or could be consolidated with existing rec center offices. Not every Parks & Rec employee needs his or her own office, particularly when staffing existing positions has become increasingly difficult.
  • More Effective Design
    • The climbing gym Reception Seating area could be moved to the adjacent “Reception Seating” outside the footprint of the gym
    • The Lockers in the climbing gym area could be moved to to the adjacent “Check-in kiosks” outside the gym’s footprint
    • The Rentals in the climbing gym area could be moved into the adjacent “Retail” area outside the gym’s footprint

Once the climbing gym has been constructed, it will serve the community’s needs for decades to come. As Jackson’s population and climbing’s popularity continues to grow, the limited square footage included in the current designs will become increasingly insufficient to meet demand.

If you would like to encourage Parks & Rec and Town and County elected officials to allocate additional square footage to the gym, here are ways to do so.

 Additional details from Sept. 1 preliminary design presentation are as follows:

Total size of gym:

  • 8,500 total square feet
  • 10,940 total square feet of climbing surface area
  • 980 square feet of bouldering on the first floor
  • 1,160 square feet of bouldering on the second floor 

Max capacity

  • Gym will accommodate up to 75 climbers/150 people total at a time
  • Gym features 45 belay stations (for context, the Enclosure climbing gym had 55) 

Amenities

  • 60% roped climbing/40% bouldering  
  • Walls run from 35’- 45’ high  
  • Lead-only climbing: 5-8 belay stations. The rest would be top ropable
  • Bouldering wall on first floor: 15’ tall; up to 8’ of cave/overhanging terrain
  • Climbing mezzanine on 2nd floor: almost entirely devoted to bouldering; could include systems boards/moonboards etc

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