Bouldering wall in Rec center faces another delay five years after its original announcement

The bouldering wall, most recently planned to open during the summer, is now projected to open by the end of the fall semester following another delay. ORACLE GRAPHIC/JEISLIAN QUILES

The bouldering wall project has been delayed multiple times since it was originally announced in 2018, and some students have one question on their mind: Why is it taking so long?

Though its last estimated completion date passed in the summer, the project has been delayed again with a new opening date projected for the end of the fall semester, according to Aaron Nichols, director of communication and engagement at USF.

Nichols said in an email sent to The Oracle that they are required to do additional design and construction work. He said the general contractor is currently putting together an updated plan and schedule for the wall.

Some of the previous delays have been attributed to the pandemic, struggling to align schedules with all the teams involved and now issues with the support beams in the racquetball court room, according to Nichols and previous Oracle articles. 

The bouldering wall is supposed to replace one of the three racquetball courts closest to the stairs inside the Rec center. The panels of the wall are already built and have been kept inside a warehouse since 2021, according to a Feb. 7 Oracle article.

A bouldering wall is a type of rock climbing wall without belay ropes – or a safety rope that secures the climber to an anchor point. Since it has no ropes, the bouldering wall stands only 14 feet tall.

There will be 672 square feet of climbing surface with about 500 handholds for climbers to create their own paths, according to Nichols. There will also be different difficulty levels with varying shapes and sizes of the rocks, he said.

The wall does not require assistance or employees to hold ropes for climbers, and it will allow people to climb for as long or as quickly as they want. No supervision will be required because climbers will fall onto a landing surface of about a foot of multi-density foam, Nichols said. Climbers are able to freely climb while they attempt to get to the top. 

Sophomore biology major Kevin Mendez said he would be interested in using the wall when it is complete, but is not shocked that it’s taking a long time to open.

“I didn’t even know what they were working on behind that tarp, but I can’t say I was surprised since USF projects usually are late,” Mendez said.

The main cause for delay is not with the wall pieces themselves, but with the racquetball court, Nichols said. The room doesn’t have enough support to hold up the wall panels. The team had to redesign parts of the room to add support beams to carry the weight of the climbing wall, according to Nichols.

“Once the contractor cut back the ceiling per the original design, structural issues were discovered, necessitating a different approach,” Nichols said.

Senior criminology major Gabe Ludes, who goes to the Rec regularly, said he is disappointed the project has been continuously delayed since this is his last year at USF.

“I was pretty excited to get to use new, fun exercise equipment. I hope the delays don’t extend too much longer since I want to be able to use the wall a few times before I graduate,” Ludes said.

Nichols said the new budget for the climbing project is $211,000, which is about $60,000 more than the original cost estimate. The original cost estimate was about $150,000, according to a Sept. 25, 2022 Oracle article. While the wall has had multiple delays, there is no talk about canceling the project, according to Nichols.  

Nichols said the plan changes will not affect the design of the climbing wall. The new plan only affects the ceiling and lighting in the racquetball room.

Ludes said he is experiencing a mix of emotions, as he is both excited for the future of the bouldering wall and nervous about the continuous delays. 

“I think this is a really cool project to have in our Rec center, I just hope they can get it done soon,” Ludes said.