Tom Farrens, a representative from Wember, explains the Rec Center’s expansion plans to parishioners during an open house on Wednesday. Molly Breslin, left, feared that the plans for the climbing gym would leave too much space at the expense of the regular gym. Georgie Stanley and Paul Horton, right, who are both climbers, said bigger is better.
Jacksonites are no monolith when it comes to the upcoming Rec Center expansion and one of its most iconic elements: a public climbing gym.
Climbers want to see their square footage grow. However, others fear that what has already been suggested is too much.
So, after two days of workshops on expansion and other projects, Parks and Rec Director Steve Ashworth considered compromising.
“I’m not going to make everyone happy,” Ashworth told the News & Guide. “But when everyone feels that they have to compromise equally, I think this is indeed a successful plan.”
The design plans for the expanded Rec Center include a number of amenities in addition to the climbing area: a new gym, dry locker rooms separate from the pool, studio rooms for fitness classes, a gym and a raised lane on the second floor, new rooms for meetings and parties, space for one Spa suite with Teton County Health Department staff and an outdoor splash pool.
But it was the climbing gym that caught the attention of fans and critics during two days of public workshops last week.
Brendan Burns, a mountain guide, thought the proposed room was “decent” but too small.
Molly Breslin, a former Parks and Rec employee and volunteer, said the climbing area was replacing more traditional fitness areas.
And Matt Hall, a member of the Teton County Fair Board, felt that the space given to the indoor climbing arena neglects common spaces such as party rooms.
Ashworth and other officials involved in the planning pointed out the language in the 2019 Specific Excise Tax (SPET) initiative, approved by voters and earning $ 22 million in sales tax revenue for the Rec Center expansion. Faced with competing interests, they argued that what is being proposed is what was said on the ballot.
“I feel like everything we have in the building now is in line with that goal,” said Brandon Lucero, technical coordinator for Perkins and Will, the expansion’s lead architecture firm.
2019 SPET optional language for the expansion of the Rec Center
In 2019, voters approved an earmarked excise tax (SPET) of $ 22 million to expand the Teton County / Jackson Recreation Center. During public workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday, officials said they believed the proposed target hit the mark. Here’s what the ballot said.
Project name: Teton County / Jackson Recreation Center expansion and renovation, community climbing gym, King Street expansion, and stormwater treatment.
Ballot papers are as follows: $ 22,000,000.00 to design, engineer, build, and equip the renovation and expansion of the Teton County / Jackson Recreation Center. The renovation and expansion includes an additional gym, an indoor walking / running track, an indoor climbing hall, wellness and fitness facilities, an outdoor water pool, general recreational facilities for young people and seniors, associated building infrastructure, expansion of King Street, rainwater management systems and the associated parking lots, multimodal transport and landscaping. All unspent funds, including unused contingent funds, will be deposited into a designated account, the principal and interest of which will be used for the operation and maintenance of the Teton County / Jackson Recreation Center. This project is sponsored by Teton County.
But that does not mean that he and other officials were ignorant of the public’s wishes. When the expansion of the Rec Center got underway, the Teton Climbers’ Coalition voted for a larger climbing hall than proposed: 10,000 to 12,000 square meters instead of the approximately 7,500 square meters that were presented in last week’s designs.
Marian Meyers is a member of the Climbers’ Coalition and has also worked on a stakeholder committee for the climbing area. She commended Parks and Rec for bringing an indoor climbing advisor, Entre-prises, on board to design the space, and felt 7,500 square feet was an improvement.
“This is more than originally suggested, so we are thrilled that it is going in the right direction,” said Meyers.
But she said she would have liked to see an Entre-prises representative in the workshops and still thought that talking to other gyms would require more space.
“I think the footprint still has to be bigger because you need common room so that the climbers aren’t all on top of each other,” said Meyers.
Ashworth said adding square footage was difficult. Space is limited and adding more square feet is expensive.
“I only have so much space,” said Ashworth. “And bigger doesn’t always mean better.”
Ashworth said Entre-prises was confident that Parks and Rec would be able to build an adequate climbing gym with the space provided.
And he argued that the number of routes is a better factor in the quality of the gym than the size.
Meyers said she would be interested in hearing more from companies when they get into town.
A draft plan for the first floor of the planned expansion of the Rec Center, which was unveiled last Tuesday and Wednesday. See the online version of this article for a PDF with the full Teton County / Jackson Parks and Recreation plans.
Lucero said many of the comments he received during the workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday were in line with the request of the Climbers’ Coalition.
“Most of what we’ve heard is that they don’t believe a rock-climbing wall is the size of the community,” he told the News & Guide.
Paul Horton was one of the participants in last week’s workshops interested in learning more about the climbing wall.
“It won’t be as big as I want it to be,” said Horton.
But the former Jackson Hole Mountain Guides partner said he wasn’t advocating a specific square footage.
Rather, he wanted as much space as possible for climbing, especially after three climbing disciplines made their debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I think the gyms are going to take off,” said Horton. “I think we haven’t seen anything yet.”
Horton suggested that this could be achieved by adjusting the size of the meeting rooms and other rooms.
But Hall, the board member of the fair, was not on board with this proposal.
“You need more of the flexible space,” he said, referring to meeting rooms and party rooms. The reason, Hall said, is that the Blue Ribbon exhibition hall at the Teton County Fairgrounds is likely to go away after the lease expires in December. Jackson City Council is seeking redevelopment of the site as affordable housing.
A lot of kids’ parties and quinceañeras are held in this building, and Hall said he thought a similar space would be set up and affordable.
He suggested converting the second floor of the climbing hall into more space.
Breslin, meanwhile, was concerned about the approximate space ratio that was allocated to the climbing gym compared to a traditional gym.
The climbing hall was allocated around 7,500 square meters in drafts. And Breslin said Ashworth told her the gym on the second floor had been allocated about 3,500.
“I think a climbing gym is a fabulous idea,” said Breslin. “But I think we need to talk about an appropriate demarcation of space that meets the needs of the community.”
She argued that climbers would benefit from traditional fitness equipment, but that other members of the community might not use the climbing area.
“The climbing hall has the opportunity to benefit quite a lot from the rest of the facility,” says Breslin. “But many people who use the facility and the other venues will not have the opportunity to benefit from the climbing hall. So who are we serving here? “
Georgie Stanley, another climber at last week’s workshops, said she appreciated Breslin’s point of view.
“I appreciate that the Rec Center is a place where there can be more affordable workouts,” she said.
Nevertheless, she wanted the climbing hall to be well sized and well developed. Among other things, she hoped that it would have more interesting properties than simple vertical walls.
“I have kids and a vertical wall is great for 15 minutes and then the kids are over it,” Stanley said. “It has to be a good climbing hall with the most modern design.”