Jackson receives its long-awaited climbing gym

There are multiple new spaces and services but the crux of the recreation center’s expansion for many — is the new indoor climbing gym.
Hundreds funneled into the recreation center after the expansion opened Thursday. It's been years since there was an indoor climbing gym in Jackson. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

The Teton County Recreation Center has more than doubled in size.

After about 20 years of planning and two years of construction, the final phase of the Teton County Recreation Center expansion is now complete. It opened to the public last week following a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Director of Parks and Recreation Steve Ashworth said a similar sized recreation center could serve populations from half-a-million to 2 million people — dwarfing Teton County’s about 25,000 residents according to the 2022 census.

Steve Ashworth is the Director of Teton County Parks and Recreation. He says he has been discussing the recreation center’s expansion since 2004. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

Ashworth led a gaggle of curious county and town staff and a couple of local media members — including myself — on a tour of new additions including a daycare, a full fitness area with an indoor track, a gymnasium, and several fitness rooms.

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“Now, what you came to see,” Ashworth said.

We swung a left at the front desk and toward the echoing acoustics flooding the indoor climbing gym — as if we were entering the mecca of the expansion itself — and in some sense, we were.

“Yeah, it’s big,” Ashworth said, after I struggled to find the questions to quantify the expanse of the over 75 routes available in the gym.

And that’s only the lower level.

“Let’s go on up,” Ashworth said.

Upstairs there’s a bouldering area with a climbing trainer called a moonboard that lights up routes from an iPad mounted to the wall.

“We listened to a lot of the climbing community and they said whatever you do, give us a moonboard,” Ashworth said.

“I think it’s something to fight the winter blues.”

County staff milled about crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s, setting things in place. Within a few hours a hundreds of rec members would be recreating — including Jackson High senior Frank Daly, who is set to graduate this week.

“As I’ve been learning to climb, I’ve felt kind of deprived of a good spot to go on a rainy day,” Daly said.

Many Jackson climbers have resigned to driving over Teton Pass to go to the climbing gym in Driggs or have settled for a climbing trainer at a local private gym.

Jacksonite Olive Burn said it’s nice to have a place to meet with the climbing community — year-round — especially for those who aren’t skiers.

“I think it’s going to be something to fight the winter blues — and summer blues if you have them,” Burn said.

Ashwoth says the lower level wall has over 74 routes that will be changed on a regular basis. In addition to traditional top rope systems pictured above, the wall includes auto belay systems that allow climbers to top rope without a partner. (KHOL/Dante Filpula Ankney)

Membership prices climb and hopefully so does revenue

Locals — including individuals up to 70 miles away in communities like Victor, Driggs, Alpine and Bondurant — will pay $51 per month for a membership or $13 for a single entry. Non-residents will pay $85 per month or $22 for a single entry.

Ashworth has hired more staff and raised the cost of membership because he said they went from running one business — the aquatic center — to three — the aquatic center, climbing gym and fitness area.

He says the aquatic center costs the most to upkeep — more staff, more maintenance — but the new climbing gym and fitness area requires a lot less.

The facility’s expansion was paid for in-part by voter-approved $22 million Specific Purpose Excise Tax funds (SPET) in 2019. But, the project went significantly over budget by about $11 million, which is attributed by the county to surging construction costs during COVID.

Ashworth said the recreation center — that again, doubled its size — should also double its revenue.

The rec center also added a fitness area with another gymnasium (pictured above), an indoor track and weights/exercise machines. Ashworth said that adding the climbing gym and the fitness area to the pre-existing aquatic center is like going from running one business to three. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

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