Langford climbs back into Olympic spotlight with new facility

The banners lining the Langford Parkway read: “Building a National Sports Capital.” True to those words, the latest Olympic sport has landed in the burgeoning community with the opening today of the $3-million BoulderHouse climbing facility directly behind Starlight Stadium.

“We expect a big push from the Olympics,” said Jean-Marc de la Plante, co-owner of the facility, which features a 150-linear-foot main wall.

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“The exposure in Tokyo [where climbing makes its Olympic debut] will definitely attract a lot of people to climbing.”

Yet, even pre-Tokyo, attracting people is just what the sport has been doing from the grass-roots level on up to the Olympians.

“We have been one of the fastest-growing sports over the last decade,” said de la Plante.

“The Olympic debut in Tokyo is the adrenalin side of the sport. But a lot of the success of climbing has to do with the community of climbers, no matter what skill level. It’s an inclusive, welcoming and supportive sport and that’s why climbing has grown so fast.”

Another reason is accessibility. De la Plante says he can have newcomers climbing a wall within five minutes of gearing up. The two-storey Langford facility, the largest for climbing on the Island, features a 6,000-square foot dedicated kid’s section.

At the elite end of the sport is Olympic-hopeful BoulderHouse member and national-teamer Rebecca Frangos, among the top-five women’s climbers in Canada.

“I have my sights set on the 2024 Paris Olympics,” she said.

She is at a facility that could help get her there.

“I hope this place brings more people into the sport,” said the 23-year-old.

“Climbing is an individual sport but it doesn’t feel like it because you become part of a climbing community.”

The growth of the sport meant that BoulderHouse outgrew its five-year-old downtown Victoria location.

“Langford’s vision to make itself a national sports capital really spoke to us,” said de la Plante.

Several of the 10 Canadian national training centres located in Greater Victoria are in Langford, including for rugby, golf, tennis and mountain biking.

“This is a great opportunity and we’re excited by it,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young, during the opening media conference for BoulderHouse on Wednesday.

It follows the recent opening of the Jordie Lunn Bike Park in Langford, named after the late cycling great.

“Recreation is our No. 1 priority. We make recreation available to everyone and we are always on the lookout for things for families to do,” said Young.

“We have a passion for getting things done properly and quickly. There’s no point in dragging things out three or four years. Change is good and Langford is always changing and evolving. We love partnerships like this and we like our partners to run the facilities, not the city.”

Climbing continues as a popular sport on the Island with the new BoulderHouse joining major climbing facilities located in Central Saanich and at the University of Victoria. The area’s expertise in the sport is evident with Kimanda Jarzebiak, chair of the Boulders Gym Climbing Society in Central Saanich, to provide the colour commentary for CBC-TV’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Twelve of the 40 qualifiers from around the world for the Tokyo Games, including Canadians Sean McColl and Alannah Yip, have trained at Boulders Gym with Libor Hroza of Victoria, the Canadian high performance program head coach.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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