If National Climbing Centre proponents have their way, a mixed-use development presided over by a 5,000 square foot indoor rock climbing facility will overshadow the fast food restaurant and gas station that currently welcome travellers to Squamish.
"It's not about need, it's about want," said John Moonen, board director for the National Climbing Centre Society. "Squamish is emerging as an international climbing destination and there isn't a national climbing centre in Canada. It's a fit because Squamish considers itself the outdoor recreation capital of Canada and the Centre is intended to be an advocate for climbing, to provide educational programs, research, and training. It's a perfect spot for it."
The land proposed for the site is owned by Vancouver-based Kingswood Group, which has folded the National Climbing Centre (NCC) proposal into the mixed residential and commercial development it plans to build on Scott Crescent near the base of the Squamish Chief.
The vision for the centre includes providing space for the NCC headquarters along with offices for climbing groups, meeting rooms for climbing-related training and education and a commercial indoor climbing wall.
A community-based not-for-profit society would be responsible for the NCC's administration and Moonen said a commercial operator would be brought in to manage the wall.
"In terms of what the centre will do is really put Squamish on the map," he said.
"It's already an international and national climbing destination, and this will give it a bit of a focus," he continued. "We will have the ability to help the climbing companies on rainy days. (Currently) when they have clients they end up driving down to The Edge in North Van. Having a wall in Squamish will help them, it'll be an iconic gateway into the town."
Among those consulted by Kingswood is international climber and Squamish rock guide Will Stanhope, who has put his stamp of approval on the project.
"The Climbing Center is shaping up to be a state-of-the-art facility," he said. "When complete, the NCC will accommodate the most chalk-splattered rock veteran to the fresh-faced beginner. I am excited that climbers like me were consulted by the project team, giving us an opportunity to help usher in a facility that meshes community, climbing and adventure."
Kingswood has yet to make a formal rezoning application with the District of Squamish but Moonen said the plans have been tailored to fit with the Official Community Plan for the city's downtown.