Establishing an advisory committee to liaise between the climbing community and the manager of the municipally-run climbing gym as part of the $39 million Multiplex facility has been recommended to council.
Creating the committee and hiring a manager as soon as possible were recommendations from the climbing gym stakeholder group, which made a presentation earlier this month on the process it went through to analyse how the climbing gym should be run in terms of operations and governance structure.
The committee, said Canmore Indoor Climbing Society representative Steve Frangos, would provide a feedback loop to the manager of the climbing gym from the climbing community and retain the momentum of co-operation gained through the stakeholder group process.
In addition to hiring a manager for the climbing wall immediately, general manager of municipal services Lorrie O’Brien also recommended a consultant be retained for the first three years to assess how the climbing gym is operating.
However, what the budget figures, costs and expenses of the climbing gym are expected to be were not available for council to review.
In the presentation it was recognized that climbers can be a frugal market and the facility itself will see seasonal fluctuations and sustainable funding would be an issue, but Councillor Hans Helder said he was looking for something more tangible.
“Personally, I am interested in seeing more detail on an operational budget model,” Helder said. “I think it would be an important component on making the decision of how to proceed.”
O’Brien said a lot more hard work and the expertise of a hired climbing gym manager are required to get to that next level and provide budget figures.
“We do not want to hold up the process and need feet on the ground to do that work,” O’Brien said.
She pointed out a request for proposal process last year to find an operator saw three bids that did not meet expectations resulting in the council choosing to municipally operate the facility.
“I think it is going to be very challenging,” she added.
Walson Tai, co-owner of the Calgary Climbing Centre and a member of the stakeholder group, said strategic memberships and a pricing model that works for the marketplace are strategies to address those issues.
Tai said one of the strengths of the climbing gym is that the wall will be 45 feet high, which is above average for such facilities in North America.
The design and the company that was successful in the request for proposal process will be unveiled at the Civic Centre, tonight (May 24).
Tai said the wall will have a flexible design that caters to core user groups while the facility itself will be set up to host events.
Another strength is that climbing is a growing industry and popular in the community, Tai said, and especially with youth. In fact, 25 per cent of the Canadian junior team is from Canmore.
“We wanted to focus on the community of Canmore and the climbing community first, then we can work on tourism,” he said.
Frangos said the stakeholder group recommends an enterprise model to govern the climbing gym as it takes the best attributes of private sector and municipal models to meet community needs.
That could mean a third party operating group contracted to run the facility, but, given the timeframes, administration recommended a Town employee position be created and staffed immediately.
“Having the right person in that role will be a challenge, but it is a critical role in successfully moving this forward,” Frangos said.
The climbing gym manager is an important element of making the municipal facility a success along with how the routes of the wall itself will be set.
“This is where the art of a climbing gym comes into play,” he said, adding routes must be changed regularly and suit the needs of an array of skill levels.”