Yellowknife City Council has decided to build a new climbing wall in the Yellowknife Fieldhouse. Woo hoo!
What has the City of Yellowknife agreed to? Is the City building a wall as a gift to the YKCC?
The City of Yellowknife has decided to build and maintain a climbing wall in the Fieldhouse for public use. This wall would be a public facility – just like the city’s pool and hockey rinks – and would not belong to the YKCC. The climbing wall would be owned, managed, and maintained by the City of Yellowknife for the benefit and use of the public. The City of Yellowknife would charge users fees and collect revenue to support the wall’s operations. The YKCC would provide skilled services such as climbing training, route setting, and competition organizing.
How much will the new wall cost?
City staff estimate the new wall will cost $190,000 to build. If user fees are set appropriately, the YKCC estimates the wall will pay for itself in 4-5 years and afterward become a steady source of revenue for the City. By increasing usage of the Fieldhouse, the wall is also likely to increase revenue for other facilities within the Fieldhouse, such as the running track and playground.
What funding has the City committed to the new wall?
On December 8th, 2016, City Council voted to contribute $160,000 to the cause. Thank you!
What will the YKCC contribute to the new wall?
The YKCC has committed to providing the remaining construction cost for the wall above the $160,000 committed by the City. The YKCC will contribute this money through fundraising and donations from its own funds. The YKCC has also committed to donating $20K in existing assets (climbing holds, climbing shoes, etc.)
How can I help or donate to support the new wall?
The YKCC is currently organizing a fundraising campaign for spring 2018 to raise the remaining funds for the wall. If you would like to help with fundraising, applying for grants, or other services, please contact the ykclimbingclub at gmail.com.
Why would the YKCC want the City to build and operate a wall?
The mission of the YKCC is to develop and promote the sport of climbing in Yellowknife and the surrounding area for people of all ages and experience levels. Climbing is a lot of fun, and we want to share that.
Years ago there was no climbing wall in Yellowknife, so we at the YKCC built our own wall in a gym space that we currently rent. Our wall helped us to promote climbing, but we had to run our gym as a small business.
We relied on volunteers to staff our gym, clean the gym, maintain the wall, and do administration work like paying rent, balancing our books, and coordinating staff. It ended up being a lot of work. During the 5 years the YKCC ran the gym, we proved there is demand for climbing in Yellowknife, and that a climbing wall can make money in Yellowknife.
So, there are two big reasons why we want the City of Yellowknife to build a wall in the Fieldhouse:
- We don’t want to run this small business anymore. The YKCC would like to focus on programming and training rather than running a small volunteer-based business.
- The YKCC’s old wall was small. It’s similar in scale to a backyard pool or backyard rink: nice, but with clear limitations and not appropriate for a city of ~20,000 people. We would like Yellowknife to have a bigger wall with more climbing options. A bigger wall will attract more climbers and provide a better climbing experience.
If the YKCC built its current wall years ago, could it build a bigger one now?
The YKCC’s old wall was built by hand using semi-skilled labour from our club members. We were able to do this because the wall was small. The new wall in the YKCC’s proposal is big enough for a municipality and requires a specialized builder. Capital costs for this new wall are very high relative to the YKCC’s current revenue. We made money running our old wall, but not enough money to purchase a municipal facility.
A bigger wall also requires a bigger space. There aren’t many rental spaces in Yellowknife that would meet the space needs of this new wall, and those that might are often inconvenient to reach and therefore risky from a revenue perspective.
Having the City build a public wall in a centrally-located municipal facility solves both of these problems.
How will the new wall make money if the current wall is dependent upon volunteer labour?
The YKCC needed volunteers to open our gym, collect user fees, and be present in case of emergency. We proposed the City build a wall in the Fieldhouse lobby where a paid staff member is already on hand to do these jobs. Our proposal adds a money-making element to the Fieldhouse without requiring extra staff to run it.
While the existing YKCC gym does make money using volunteer labour, we currently have significant operating costs due to our rent. Since the new wall will be built in a facility that is already operating, the new wall won’t have rent or leasing costs as an operating expense.
Overall, this proposal gives Yellowknife a new recreation facility with very low operating costs. Some maintenance funding will be required for the wall itself, but this will be a small amount and will be easily covered by the wall’s revenues.
How would this benefit the City of Yellowknife and the public (aka tax payers)?
- The City will gain a new piece of recreation infrastructure with very low operating costs.
- The wall will draw more people to the Fieldhouse and increase usage of the facilities already there.
- Based on the YKCC’s experience running our gym, we believe the project could pay for itself in 4-5 years if usage fees are set appropriately. That is a simple return on investment of 20-25%.
- Once the wall is paid off in 4-5 years, it would generate a steady revenue stream for the City of Yellowknife.
- Revenue can be put back into Fieldhouse upkeep, climbing programming and training, purchasing additional climbing equipment, or for future upgrades or maintenance to the wall itself.
- The climbing wall is transferable. The climbing wall can be relocated if a new space is created in the City of Yellowknife. For example, the wall structure could be installed in Yellowknife’s new aquatic centre once it is built.
- The City of Yellowknife is contemplating moving the desk at the Fieldhouse to another location within the lobby. This proposal would fit into that plan.
- The wall would fill a competitive niche for people looking to move North, especially recent graduates and young professionals.
Has the City of Yellowknife provided capital expenditures for public sports facilities before?
Yes! The City of Yellowknife has provided all or part of the funding for public facilities or infrastructure that impact local sports organizations outside of grants:
The Tommy Forrest Ballpark upgrade was provided by the City of Yellowknife to benefit the public and baseball/softball teams. The City of Yellowknife budgeted $60,000 for this.
- The Fieldhouse was constructed with some City of Yellowknife funding and is maintained by the City of Yellowknife on behalf of the public (leagues for soccer, frisbee, football, and rugby, plus runners and other individual users). The City of Yellowknife charges user fees and collects revenue.
- Beach volleyball courts were constructed and maintained on behalf of the public and beach volleyball players.
- Ice rinks were constructed and maintained by the City of Yellowknife for hockey leagues, figure skating, and curling. The City of Yellowknife charges user fees and collects revenue.
The City of Yellowknife paid $70,000 to construct the skateboard park in 1998 for skateboarders.
- The Ruth Inch Swimming Pool was constructed and maintained by the City of Yellowknife for swimmers. The City of Yellowknife charges user fees and collects revenue.
Other notable examples of partnerships include:
- Yellowknife Ski Club has property taxes waived and they pay $1 a year to lease City of Yellowknife land. They are open for members only.
- Yellowknife Golf Club has property taxes waived and they pay $1 a year to lease City of Yellowknife land. They are open for public and members.
- Yellowknife Shooting Club has property taxes waived and they pay $1 a year to lease City of Yellowknife land. They are open for members only.
There is a long list of precedence that demonstrates exactly what the YKCC is proposing. It is no different than a hockey rink, a skateboard park, or a baseball diamond!
How will the new wall be run?
The new wall will be like any other public recreation facility that the City of Yellowknife operates, such as the pool, ice rinks, fields, and running tracks.
The City would administer and manage the day-to-day use of the wall. Hours would be set up for drop-in, event rentals (birthdays), and any programming, training, or special events. The City would charge user fees for use of the wall and keep the reveneu. The City would also be in charge of maintenance and structural upgrades.
What will the role of the YKCC be?
The YKCC will help with some maintenance (setting routes), running programming and training, and hosting special events (competitions, etc.).
Have other municipalities in Canada built climbing walls within public facilities?
Several Canadian municipalities have built climbing walls within public facilities that are operated by the municipality. Some of these communities have much smaller populations than Yellowknife.
- Chetwynd (population 2,635)
- Smithers (population 5,404)
- Saltspring (population 10,234)
- Canmore (population 12,288)
- Orillia (population 30,259)
- Oakville (population 182,520)
- Richmond (population 190,470)
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