Rec Center Expansion

Rheya Irvin navigates a boulder problem at the Teton Boulder Park in August 2017. Entre-prises, an international climbing wall manufacturer that designed the boulder park, was awarded the contract for design of a new climbing gym at the expanded Rec Center. That and two other contracts appear to address previous concerns raised about the expansion.

Commissioners and community members praised Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation for addressing community concerns that previously halted the Rec Center expansion.

And, with a slate of contracts approved Tuesday, the project should once again be chugging along.

Parks and Rec Director Steve Ashworth told the County Commission that he thought his department “did a much better job” of “reaching out to many of the stakeholders” this time around.

The Teton County Board of County Commissioners agreed.

The elected officials unanimously approved the three contracts Ashworth brought to them Tuesday. Those documents put a climbing gym consultant, a local construction manager at-risk, and an owner’s representative — an outside group that ensures projects finish on time and within budget — on the project.

Commissioner Mark Barron said Ashworth had gone through a “very thorough process.” Commissioner Greg Epstein said the process had gone “quite a bit more smoothly” than last time. And Commissioner Luther Propst praised the Parks and Rec director’s efforts to involve the community.

“It’s great to see that you took the lead to make sure — both on the climbing gym and on the contracting with local contractors where we could — that both of those happened,” Propst said.

Climbers had previously complained about the size and design process for the proposed climbing gym. Local businesses had worried about hiring out-of-town rather than local firms during the pandemic. And delays and cost overruns on another Parks and Rec project raised concerns about the specific purpose excise tax-approved expansion. The SPET project is expected to cost roughly $22 million.

The contracts approved Tuesday appear to address all three previous worries.

Teton Climbers’ Coalition Chair Christian Beckwith previously told the Jackson Hole News&Guide’s sister publication, the Jackson Hole Daily, that he was pleased with Ashworth’s recommendation to hire Entre-prises, a climbing wall and hold manufacturer, as the climbing gym consultant. Marian Myers, a Climbers’ Coalition member, sat on a working group that reviewed pitches from potential consultants and recommended Entre-prises. She also dialed into Tuesday’s meeting to praise the process.

“I think the whole thing went smoothly,” she said.

Anna Olson, president and CEO of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, previously criticized the recommendation to hire two out-of-town firms. She also told the Daily she supported the decision to hire GE Johnson as construction manager at-risk. That firm has a local office.

Two out-of-town firms are still set to work on the project. Wember Inc. — which has offices in Sheridan, Colorado and Utah — was approved as owner’s representative. And in March the County Commission named Chicago-based Perkins and Will as the expansion’s lead architectural firm.

But the County Commission has also hired Jackson’s Hoyt Architects and Jorgensen Engineering as the local architectural consultant and structural engineer.

And Ashworth told the County Commission that Wember made an effort to include locals in its team, bringing Jason Berning on as a consultant.

“He’s partnered with Wember to make sure that there is a really strong understanding of the local entitlement process,” the Parks and Rec director said. “We do have our own ways of doing things. And it’s really important to have somebody that understands and has a relationship with our building inspectors, with our planning commissions and everything. So we’re really excited about that.”

Hiring a construction manager at-risk and owner’s representative before any design work was also part of a checklist produced after the delays and cost overruns on the other project.

The approvals Tuesday appear to check both boxes, and Parks and Rec is now looking ahead.

Ashworth’s team is now trying to figure out what’s next in the public engagement process.

“That’s really important,” he said. “That’s the next step.”

“I think the whole thing went smoothly.” — Marian Myers teton climbers’ coalition

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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