Testing vertical limits


Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Aaron Newton
October 15th, 2013

MONMOUTH — Polk County residents eager to get a hint of the vertical life now have a chance at Western Oregon University’s Health and Wellness Center.

The campus fitness center opened its 1,600-square-foot climbing wall to the public at the beginning of fall term.

Western hasn’t made much noise about the change in policy because of staffing issues and is in what Rip Horsey, Health and Wellness Center director, is calling a “soft opening.”

“We’re not advertising it through the website because the page isn’t live,” Horsey said. “So it’s kind of hard right now.”

The climbing center page may not be live, but a few Monmouth residents have already taken advantage of the new opportunity, Horsey said.

Residents now have two areas of the WOU recreation center available for use, with the aquatic center open to the public for years.

Western doesn’t intend on opening the facility any further to the non-Western community, largely due to existing gyms in the community and activities through the YMCA.

“We have two actual, public workout facilities. If we opened our membership, we would take all their members,” Horsey said. “We don’t run a lot of youth activities because there are so many other entities that run youth activities. We don’t want to run across what a good nonprofit is trying to do.”

With no other climbing facility in the county, there was no risk for hurting the competition.

Western is using the model already in place at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon for running those climbing facilities.

Residents around the county can register for membership and pay either a term fee, $65, or day-use fee, $6 for 16 and older or $3 for 15 and under.

New members will have to sign a liability waiver and take a class on proper equipment use, techniques and general knowledge.

The center’s certified staff will be on hand to guarantee safety and proper etiquette.

“Climbing walls are inherently dangerous,” Horsey said. “All we’re trying to do is let people know that you could possibly get injured during climbing. We just want to make sure we’ve mitigated our risk as much as possible.”

Up, Up And Away

What: Western Oregon University Health and Wellness Center climbing wall.

Where: Main atrium of Health and Wellness Center.

When: Roped climbing: Monday through Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 3 to 6 p.m. Belay class: Monday through Friday, 6:45 to 7:45 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. Bouldering: Open anytime during regular operating hours.

Cost: Term membership: $65; Per visit: $6 for climbers 16 and older, $3 for 15 and under.

For more information: Rip Horsey, 503-838-9535; visit the WOU Health and Wellness Center front desk.

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