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Nelson council supports proposed climbing wall at Selkirk

Kootenay Climbing Association members Shawn Tasker (left) and Scott Jeffery (right) present the proposal before city council on Monday night. - Sam Van Schie photo
Kootenay Climbing Association members Shawn Tasker (left) and Scott Jeffery (right) present the proposal before city council on Monday night.
— image credit: Sam Van Schie photo

Nelson councillors supported Kootenay Climbing Association's proposal to build a climbing wall inside the Mary Hall Gymnasium at the Tenth Street Campus.

The climbing association was at council Monday night to present its plan to build 2,000 square feet of walls up to 23 feet high for roped climbing and 1,000 square feet of wall for bouldering.

The City owns the Tenth Street Campus facility and Selkirk's lease stipulates that it cannot sublet any portion of the premises without council approval.

The climbing association, which last spring came before council asking to turn the Civic Theatre into a multi-use recreational facility along with the squash club, said that building its walls at Mary Hall is actually a better option than renovating the Civic.

"It's way more viable in terms of cost and overhead," climbing association president Shawn Tasker said.

Renovating the Civic would have costs the two clubs $350,000 to $400,000. Building a climbing wall in Mary Hall will come in at $100,000, which Tasker said will be raised through fundraising and grant applications.

To date the association has raised $1,500 from membership sales, and it has $20,000 committed from the climbing community in the form of zero interest loans. The existing funds are enough to bring the project through the design phases while it works to secure the money it will need to start building.

"We don't want a drawn out fundraising period," Tasker said. "We're fairly confident we'll be able to raise the money from within the climbing community. There's a strong community here that wants to make this happen."

Nelson has been without a climbing gym since Gravity Climbing Centre closed last April. Even without a climbing facility, the association has sold $10 memberships to 150 people who said they would use the gym when its available.

"Those are people who have paid us for nothing, once we actually have something to offer we expect to sell way more memberships," Tasker said, noting that the Nelson wall would be the only roped climbing course in the West Kootenay and could attract climbers from outside the community.

Councillor Deb Kozak was impressed with the number of people who would potentially use the gym, and other councillors offered the climbing association words of support. Mayor John Dooley suggested the association could ask Selkirk carpentry and welding students to help build the climbing wall.

Ultimately, councillors unanimously supported the climbing associations request to operate in Mary Hall. Next the association will need to solidify the agreement with Selkirk.

Tasker said his group is asking to lease the space for $1 per year plus any additional costs the college incurs for having the facility open for climbers.

"We want this to be cost neutral for the college," Tasker said.

The association is asking for only a portion of the gymnasium space and current programming will not be impacted. The 24-by-60 foot area is currently being used for storage and is not an active part of existing recreation in the space according to Tasker.

He expects to finalize the deal with Selkirk in the coming week or so, and begin fundraising shortly after that. The construction of the climbing wall would take place over the summer months when Mary Hall gym is closed. If all goes as planned, the new climbing wall could open September 2013.

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