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Climbing facility a fit for Whitehorse: feasibility study

The Yukon Youth Climbing Team meets three times a week at the indoor climbing wall at Porter Creek Secondary School.

The Yukon Youth Climbing Team meets three times a week at the indoor climbing wall at Porter Creek Secondary School.

It has about 20 members and won’t be getting any bigger any time soon.

The wall at Porter Creek, constructed to replace the one at the old F.H. Collins school, isn’t large enough to accommodate a bigger team.

“The space is too small,” said Climb Yukon president and team coach Alain Dallaire.

A bigger facility “would allow for more climbers on the team, that’s for sure.”

That’s exactly what Climb Yukon has in mind. Earlier this year the sport’s governing body received about $7,000 from the Community Development Fund to launch a feasibility study to determine the viability of an indoor climbing facility in Whitehorse. Of the 1,427 surveyed between March and August, 98 per cent were in favour of a climbing gym. Furthermore, 85 per cent would be willing to pay for a yearly membership and 86 per cent are Whitehorse residents. However, it is worth noting 96 per cent of the responses were from people who have either tried climbing or are interested in trying it.

“It’s totally viable. It’s going to take … a lot of dedication from the directors of the organization and the community,” said study contractor Patricia Duchesneau. “It’s viable because the model I suggested isn’t necessarily a business model…. It’s called a social enterprise, so it’s managed by an NGO (non-government organization), but following the business model.

“So it wouldn’t be there to make money, but it would be there to be sustainable… and eventually be self-sustainable.”

The 90-page feasibility study is currently in the review process and will go to print this week. Location of such a facility was not part of the study. The idea of constructing a wall in the Canada Games Centre has been floated in the past.

“It’s not ruled out completely, but I think in terms of viability and opportunities we could have in terms of programming and space, I think the CGC is not necessarily the best option,” said Duchesneau.

Instead the study looked at the construction of a building for the facility since Climb Yukon wants the wall to be at least 45-feet tall to meet the minimum national level standards for competition.

The proposed facility would be 3,600 square feet, would employ a minimum of three staff members (one full-time and two part-time), and could have a price tag of roughly $2 million, “But that’s including everything,” said Duchesneau.

“We’re talking infrastructure, but also construction of the walls. Again, it’s going to be discussed along the way, but we can do it in-house or hire a professional company, and the price range is different. Two million would be for a professional company to build the wall, including everything, which is a lot of money, but it’s pretty reasonable for a recreation facility.”

Executives of Climb Yukon will first evaluate the findings of the study before deciding the direction to head. Duchesneau did not specify all the possible sources to cover the costs of a facility but did say fundraising and crowd funding would play a significant role.

Indoor rock climbing is a growing sport, according to the Climbing Business Journal. Last year the Canadian climbing gym market grew by 15 per cent with nine new facilities opening, including five in B.C., bringing the total to 69 across the country, reports the journal.

Competitive climbing is one of five sports added to the roster for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“There are way more climbers than you think,” said Duchesneau. “It’s impressive that the sport of climbing has been so popular lately.”

Climb Yukon will host Reel Rock 11, a film tour of climbing movies, on Nov. 4, 7-9 p.m., at Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. Tickets for the event, which is a fundraiser for both the youth team and the potential climbing facility, are available at Coast Mountain Sports.

Contact Tom Patrick at