Outdoor Insider Fall 2015 - Page 4

A Wall Between Two Moving Forces One university’s experience building a climbing facility: What worked, what didn’t, and what’s at stake in the bigger picture Todd Grier, Outdoor Adventures Coordinator, University of Nebraska–Lincoln As the sport of climbing grows, more students on our campuses have not only been exposed to climbing but also expect to have access to world-class facilities. At the same time, climbing facilities are now such a fixture on college campuses, they’ve become political talking points in campaigns decrying lavish spending on college campuses. As an industry, we are at an interesting crossroads. As our patrons seek better facilities, how do we manage the role we serve on campus and in our broader communities? At the University of Nebraska— Lincoln (UNL), we work tirelessly to provide experiences that enhance students’ educational experience and promote lifelong wellness. Under this mission, the Department of Campus Recreation recently completed a 5-year project to expand and renovate UNL’s facilities. As part of the larger $23 million project, the 13,000-square-foot Outdoor Adventures Center (OAC) was built, at a construction cost of $2.9 million. The stand-alone home to the Outdoor Adventures Program, the OAC includes a new 30-rope Climbing Center. As we look back through the lens of our experience, we hope to offer lessons learned. Hours away from any significant climbable rock, Lincoln, Neb., seems an unlikely setting for a climbing gym. Now, halfway into the OAC’s second year of operation, it is home to an extensive outdoor program that has served the UNL community since 1972. The development of such a facility could mark a turning point in a long history of adventure education on college campuses. The modest roots of climbing programs at UNL date back to the late ’70s, when an outdoor racquetball court partition wall offered students exposure to climbing before taking to Devil’s Tower and other regional venues. In 1997, Eldorado Climbing Walls constructed a facility typical of its time: six roped lines tucked into the corner of the Nebraska Coliseum—sharing space with badminton, basketball, and volleyball courts. Yet, even with such a modest facility, a committed climbing community has existed for some time. Now, Campus Recreation serves this community with a facility that was made for climbing. It is the first UNL space that was initially designed to include climbing, rather than renovated to add 4 AORE Outdoor Insider | Fall 2015