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New climbing gym pitched for downtown Nelson

The Kootenay Climbing Association says it has outgrown The Cube
Cube Climbing Gym opened in 2015, but the people who run it say a new facility is needed to accommodate its growing membership. Photo: Tyler Harper

Local climbers want to reach new heights in Nelson.

The Kootenay Climbing Association, which operates Cube Climbing Gym at Selkirk College’s Tenth Street Campus, is pitching a new Olympic-size facility next to the Nelson and District Community Complex.

A preliminary plan for the estimated $2-million to $3-million project was presented at a Recreation Commission meeting Tuesday.

The Cube opened in January 2015, but association treasurer Cam Shute said a larger facility has always been planned for.

“That was our original vision. But we also had to establish ourselves and cut our teeth and be viable, so we started small,” said Shute. “[The plans are] just an evolution of the next thing we want to take on.”

The current gym’s success is driving the need for a bigger facility.

Shute said the association projects 8,500 individual visits in 2020. Although the gym is open seven days a week, it is forced to close four months each year to be in line with Selkirk College’s academic calendar.

Nelson Rocha, an architect on the association’s expansion committee, says the gym’s Fairview location also limits the number of walk-in visitors.

“Any tourist who comes into this town doesn’t even know about the climbing gym because of where it’s situated,” said Rocha. “It’s just too tucked up.”

There’s also reason to believe another bump in climbing’s popularity is about to happen.

The sport will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games in July with bouldering, lead and speed events.

But because the Cube doesn’t have Olympic size walls — speed and lead events require a nearly 16-metre wall — the gym isn’t able to develop future athletes.

“Bouldering in the area is really taking off right now, too,” said president Shawn Tasker. “There’s a new wave of climbing interest in that sub-discipline, which climbing gyms cater really well to. … We’re pretty confident that if we were able to open a facility year round we would be relatively successful in that endeavour.”

The current site at Selkirk College was settled on after the privately owned Gravity Climbing Centre gym was evicted from its location and shut down in 2012. The Kootenay Climbing Association was established in 2013 and at one point tried to set up a new gym in the Civic Centre before the theatre returned to operations.

The group cautioned their plan is still early and will need to clear several hurdles.

Shute said a business plan will be finalized in February, and after that the association will make a presentation to city council. The group is eyeing is a city-owned undeveloped lot at 824 Front St. next to the NDCC.

The pitch to the Recreation Commission, which is comprised of city councillors and Regional District of Central Kootenay directors, was for political support.

Shute said, when the time comes, he isn’t concerned about funding a new gym.

“We’re quite confident in finding the money. We’re all really driven. We’ve been doing it for seven years and we’re not giving up.”

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Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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