CELEBRATING THE PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE OF TETON CLIMBING

Contact Us: (307) 690-1561

Blog

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!

The Pioneers Boulder

Proposal: As part of the expansion to the Teton County Parks and Recreation Center, create a “Pioneers Boulder” that honors the pioneers of Teton mountaineering and continues the historical tribute begun by the Teton Boulder Project and the proposed Rangers Boulder addition.

Background: In November 2019, Teton County Voters approved Proposition #9, which allocated $22,000,000.00 for “designing, planning, engineering, construction, and equipping the renovation and expansion of the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center.” The amenities included a line item for “1,000 SF Outdoor Climbing Boulders.”

Read more …

The Ranger Boulder

Proposal: create a 2,000-square-foot climbing boulder, adjacent to the Teton Boulder Park, that honors the contributions of the Jenny Lake Rangers to Teton climbing history.

Background: In 2011, The Teton Boulder Project — a public/private partnership between the town of Jackson, Teton County and the Teton climbing community — designed and built the Teton Boulder Park in Phil Baux Park at the base of Snow King as an interactive tribute to the history of Teton mountaineering. 

Read more …

Teton Parks and Recreation Department Recreation Center Expansion Climbing Gym: Insights and Takeaways

The Teton Rock Gym, Jackson’s first climbing facility, opened in 1993 with ca. 2,500 square feet of climbing space. It closed in 2007 when The Enclosure Climbing Gym, a 10,000-square foot facility owned and operated by Andy Laakmann, opened its doors. 

The Enclosure 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.

Since The Enclosure closed, no private-market solutions for a climbing gym have emerged. This is a function of two factors: the high cost of Jackson real estate, and a population base too small (23,081 in 2019) to make a climbing gym economically viable.

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.”

Given the realities of the Jackson Hole market, it should be assumed that the rec center gym, once complete, will preclude the development of a private market gym in the future. For this reason, the development of the rec center gym should be as intentional as possible, for the sake of this and future generations.

The Teton Climbers’ Coalition has come together to celebrate the past, present and future of Teton climbing. 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.

The development of a public climbing gym as part of the Teton County Parks and Recreation Department Rec Center expansion presents a singular opportunity to create a dynamic facility that meets a significant public need, fosters a sense of community and honors the legacy of Teton climbing, all at the same time.

In order for that to occur, the gym’s development should take into consideration our community’s needs as well as industry best practices and trends, which our research has done.

Read more …