The Recreation and Wellness Center plans to open a new bouldering wall after spring break following multiple delays, according to assistant director of outdoor recreation Jason Gosch.
The bouldering wall, which will replace the old racquetball court, will stand at around 12-14 feet tall, according to Gosch.
Unlike a rock-climbing wall, Gosch said extra staff and safety equipment wouldn’t be necessary for the bouldering wall. This is because students can freely climb as high as they want and release themselves to fall onto the 14 inches of thick foam padding below.
Designs for the wall were created by three undergraduate student employees for the outdoor recreation program who have since graduated – Thomas Mackiewicz, Sara Gizzi and John Dougherty. Gosch said the students picked out elements like textures on the wall, and special details such as whether panels would be angled or overhead to make the climb more challenging.
Climbing wall features and difficulty were designed for three pockets of students, according to Gosch. He said he predicts 10% of climbers are going to be everyday goers of the gym that notice it want to try it out after their workout. He said he expects another 10% to be elite climbers that use this wall to train, and the remaining 80% would be casual climbers that want to try it out while also enjoying the social aspect of climbing.
Gosch said the bouldering wall will have benches set up around it for people to watch. Climbers will be able to rent special climbing shoes if they want extra traction, he said.
“I hope there’s a lot of people in there. It’s designed so that there can be about 10 to 12 climbers physically on the wall at once without necessarily getting in each other’s way,” Gosch said.
Inspiration for a rock-climbing wall with top ropes originated from former Student Government (SG) President Moneer Kheireddine in 2018, according to Gosch. However, he said SG was unsure if the funding for the project would be worth it because they didn’t know many people would participate and whether the ongoing cost of staffing would be too high.
While that project wasn’t pursued during Kheireddine’s presidency, Gosch said the idea for a rock-climbing wall still stuck. In fall 2019, he said SG had extra money that was allocated to convert the racquetball court into a bouldering wall where people can come and go as they please without the need to hire more staff, making it a more affordable alternative.
Construction for the wall has been delayed several times. This can be attributed to the pandemic as well as the time it has taken to get the engineers, contractors, facilities management and demo team to be in line with one another, according to Gosch.
Panels for the bouldering wall were built in 2021 and are currently being held in a warehouse. He said the deconstruction of the racquetball court happened in May 2022, and the panels should be installed in the near future if things go as planned.
Gosch said once the wall opens, he expects it to be a popular destination for students visiting the gym.
“I expect there to be a decent amount of people around because for every one person on the wall, hopefully they’ve got three, four or five friends cheering them on or giving them an idea,” Gosch said.