Sunday, March 11, 2012

what if...

OK, new crazy project idea to kick around in the ol' brain.

What if I — not alone, but with lots of people and organizations and volunteers and donors — started a climbing gym in Yakima?


You know, it could happen. Over and over again, when I write stories about things that needed community support — the new med school here, the new hospice center at Memorial, and on and on — people tell me about what a uniquely generous community Yakima is. How people here just get on board and make stuff happen.

So climbing stuff could happen, too. I mean, we're right at the border of great climbing country out here; Tieton's a half hour away, Vantage is only an hour, and I'm sure there are other little places in between or along the canyon. Then Leavenworth's only an hour and a half away, though that's more out of our jurisdiction.

And the only gyms are at Central, where you have to be a student or know a student who can fit you into his/her schedule, and at the Court Club in Tri-Cities, where you have to be a member or pay a guest fee every time, and where the wall isn't open more than 2-3 times a week.

Granted, the guest fee is like $10, which is a lot cheaper than you'll pay for a day pass at any Seattle gym. And at Central, if you can get a student to accompany you, the guest fee is only $6 something. (Or you can be like my student friend, and just slide on through the gate without the desk staff knowing you're not a student.)

But still: There is no community climbing gym. There's nowhere that a regular person can buy a season pass & climb as much as he/she wants.

And this community could use one. First off, we're the 11th-fattest metropolitan statistical area in the country, with 32.4 percent of our population labeled obese. People need some fun exercise. Second, anything active that could keep kids off the street and out of gangs would be awesome. And third, climbing is a badass sport. Fer realz, guys. Guys would dig it because they get serious muscles all over their bodies, without having to pump iron in a feet-smelling gym weight room. Girls dig it for the same reason (and, speaking personally, because of all the aforementioned lean-muscled guys ... ahem.) (And who's to say that the boys don't love it for the badass climber girls, too? Don't want to be one-sided in my sexism here.)

But it's a sport that provides a good outlet for people who want to be tough and strong and macho, and it trains them to use their brains at the same time. Climbing is like a puzzle that you solve with your whole body. It requires focus in a way that's almost meditative/yoga-ish, and you have to learn what your body is capable of.

Plus it's a sport that makes you feel good about yourself! Instead of working for 8 weeks to get into running shape, you start to see progress almost immediately. You get one hold higher on the wall, and you feel like king of the gym. Or queen. Whatever.

But back to Reason No. 2: This would be a great outlet for kids. Heck, we could even have climber vanpools that could go pick up kids if they couldn't get a ride there. And when I say "kids" I mean anyone under 18; teens, too. Teens especially. If you're at a climbing gym, you're not out making bad decisions. And when you're done climbing, you're too damn tired to go make any bad decisions.

So, yes. Those are the good reasons we need a gym. Now, the practical: How could I spearhead this while working a full-time job? Hm. This is difficult. But I would just need to get a couple idea partners to join with me. And I need to talk to folks in Oly about how they started the gym there, because that's not a big commercial gym at all. That was a small project to begin with, too. Now, the point of that one is not as community-outreachy as my plan, but it still brings together a group of people that wouldn't have that space otherwise.

That's the other thing! Climbers are SUCH GOOD PEOPLE. Not necessarily as in, they love the world & only think about making it a better place (though most of them do), but they're just open and friendly and hard-working and outdoorsy and all-inclusive. (Except some places in Seattle, because hipsters are none of those things.) Climbers become a community just from standing around watching other people try to send routes. Wouldn't that be good for people here? For kids here, who need someplace safe & positive to go? Also, this is already a tight-knit small-town community. I bet it would happen easily.

Hmmmmyes. I think I would talk to the Y, and Madison House (an after-school arm of Union Gospel Mission in Yakima) and probably groups like Trail Seekers and other outreach peeps like that. It wouldn't have to be a big gym; the Warehouse isn't big, but it's my favorite gym out of all the ones I've been too. (Central's and the Court Club's aren't big either, but they're solid.) Hey, it could even go into one of the giant unused buildings in downtown Yakima, where the entire old mall is sitting empty. And I could write grants; I'm a writer, for Pete's sake! Shoot, I could write the shit outta some grants.

Wouldn't it be cool if this happens? We'd have an entire population of kids and community members of all ages who come to love this awesome sport, and take it outside to the surrounding area, which promotes more love & good stewardship of the outdoors & all kinds of good things like getting away from the computer and video games and Facebook and all that shit.

OK. I'm gonna start a Yakima climbing gym. I've got 2 more years here; let's make good use of them.

Rock on. (<---future gym name? Eh? Eh??)

Love always,