SIOUX CITY — The Sioux City Council will be asked Monday to approve an agreement between the city and a North Carolina limited liability company for the management and operation of the Long Lines Family Rec Center rock climbing wall.
The climbing wall has become one of the “most underutilized and underpromoted recreational assets” of the Sioux City Parks and Recreation Department, according to documents filed with the city.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recreation center and climbing wall were closed to the public from March 13 to June 22, 2020. When the facility reopened, belay services at the wall rock climbing could not be offered due to social distancing guidelines. and limited staff availability. Most part-time employees did not return after the long layoff. According to the documents, finding staff with the technical expertise for the climbing wall has been an ongoing challenge.
“It really made it difficult to open the climbing wall because of the social distancing and once we were open the social distancing made it difficult,” said parks and recreation manager Matt Salvatore, in the Journal. “Since that time when it was closed, usage has been greatly reduced. It’s time to reinvigorate the climbing wall.”
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In fall 2020, Parks and Recreation moved its offices and most of its indoor programming to the new Siouxland Expo Center.
Parks and Recreation staff began researching and contacting private operators capable of operating the climbing wall, which remained at the Long Lines Family Rec Center.
Whitewater, an outdoor recreation and adventure sports company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, emerged as the only interested party. The owner and senior management of Whitewater visited Sioux City last June and came to the conclusion that “Siouxland was a promising market,” according to the documents.
The climbing wall was subsidized between $66,380 and $78,907 per year for the three exercises before the pandemic, with limited hours of operation. Under the proposed agreement with Whitewater, the hours of operation of the wall would be increased.
“It will operate more like a gym with a climbing wall, rather than just a wall that you enjoy for a few hours here and there or on weekends. It will be a full-service gym with programming and regular hours,” Salvatore said. “We are excited for the opportunity this will bring to Sioux City.”
During the initial term of the agreement, June 1-30, 2022, the city would pay Whitewater $8,333 for management fees and an additional $50,000 for facility upgrades and marketing. During the second term, from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, the city would pay the LLC a management fee of $100,000 and the city would be entitled to retain all operating revenue. If successful, a new deal between Whitewater and the city would be negotiated before the end of the second term.
For the initial term, the management services agreement would be funded from the recreation centre’s operating budget, to include the $50,000 allocated for facility upgrades and $8,333 allocated for management fees. For the second term, $100,000 would be allocated for management fees. The payment terms were approved as an improvement request for the fiscal year 2023 budget, resulting in a net operating budget savings of $16,632.78, the documents show.
Fees for using the climbing wall are currently $7 for a 2 hour session and $3 for shoe rental. Salvatore said these costs would be under Whitewater’s direction have yet to be determined, however, he said there will likely be some correlation between fees and availability.
“As it is, you pay a fee and you have access for a limited time, where in the future you will have a lot of access. You have a bigger window to be able to enjoy the climbing wall. ,” he said.
The climbing wall, which was first unveiled to the public in March 2006, was produced and installed by Entre Prizes USA Inc. of Bend, Oregon. It offers 5,900 square feet of climbing space. The main wall is 52 feet, 6 inches high at its highest point. The competitive section is 42 feet high and has a 12 foot overhang. The rock climbing wall is made of crystal print and plywood and features a 13 foot high freestanding boulder.
The wall took about two years from the initial planning stages and ended up costing around $400,000. The city, private donations and a grant from Vision Iowa covered the cost.