Climbing team still lacks Yale gym

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Photo by Carol Hsin.

As the Yale College Council prepares for another round of its $10K Initiative, last year’s winning project — a climbing wall proposed by Charlie Kelly ’14 — is nowhere to be found.

Citing high projected costs and liability issues, Associate Dean for Student Organizations and Physical Resources John Meeske advised the YCC’s $10K committee to review how other universities maintain their climbing walls prior to building the structure. With the Connecticut Rock Gym closed for 10 months starting November 2011, the climbing team took a train to Fairfield to practice last semester. A new gym, City Climb, has opened in the same area, but climbers complain about its one-mile distance from campus and mediocre facilities.

“Yale needs a rock wall because there’s enough interest in rock climbing as a sport, and currently the route to the rock gym is pretty dangerous,” said Max Andersen ’14, who goes to the off-campus gym every week. “I think Yale has the resources and facilities to have [its own rock wall].”

Though Meeske said he is open to the project after questions of cost, maintenance and supervision are addressed, Kelly said no one informed him of the steps necessary to move forward and the project has since been stalled.

Roughly $1,200 of the YCC’s prize money went instead to the third and fourth proposals, cheap alternatives to SMART Boards and squash rackets, said last year’s $10K director Archit Sheth-Shah ’13. The second-place proposal — the creation of nap areas on campus — received no funds because its sponsor Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins ’12 left Yale to run for public office. The rest of the money remains in the YCC’s budget, Sheth-Shah said.

Joey Yagoda ’14, who heads the $10K Initiative this year, said the committee maintains no connection to the climbing wall.

Last year was not the first time Yale considered creating a climbing facility.

Barbara Chesler, a Yale Athletics senior associate director, said the idea for building a climbing wall was floated in the mid-1990s in connection to Payne Whitney Gym’s renovation but never came to fruition. Chesler said the wall would have to come at the cost of another sport’s practice area if built today.

When climbing became an official club sport in 2010, Director of Club Sports Tom Migdalski said the team planned to use City Climb off campus.

“There was never a promise, or even a mention … that we would be obligated in any way to provide additional facility or funding resources,” Migdalski said in a Monday email, adding that “serious consideration is given to all proposals made to Athletics, and decisions aren’t made lightly” or “denied unless for very sound internal and external reasons.”

Though the climbing team has access to City Climb, safety remains an issue for climbers as they walk along Farmington Canal to the facility in the evenings, Kelly said. Since the start of the school-year, Yale Chief of Police Ronnell Higgins alerted students at least twice to robberies occurring on the way, along the Canal Line.

“I feel uncomfortable taking the walk alone at night — it’s not a safe walk in my opinion,” said Andrew Calder ’13, the team’s co-captain. “We always encourage people to walk in groups or always to have a buddy.”

Kelly said a shuttle would only be a partial solution, since other teams have the chance to train in facilities on campus.

The Yale climbing team was formed in 2008.

Correction: Dec. 5

A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to City Climb as the Connecticut Rock Gym, which closed last year. The City Climb gym opened in the same area this fall.

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