Opportunities await at new Outdoor Adventures Center

Opportunities await at new Outdoor Adventures Center

Students try out the new Outdoor Adventures Center climbing wall during the May 1 open house. The facility opens to the public today (May 5).
Craig Chandler | University Communications
Students try out the new Outdoor Adventures Center climbing wall during the May 1 open house. The facility opens to the public today (May 5).

For 43 years, Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Adventures program has helped extend education at UNL into the great outdoors. Today (May 5), the program begins a new era as the 13,000 square foot Outdoor Adventures Center at 930 N. 14th St. opens for use.

The new building — which is roughly four times larger than the former location within the Campus Rec Center — includes a world-class indoor/outdoor climbing structure and bouldering gym; an expanded shop for bike repairs and rentals; UNL’s first outdoor bike lockers; 24-hour shower access to members; outdoor gear rentals; and meeting space to plan Outdoor Adventures trips and hold related training classes.

“This new building is a huge statement about the possibilities you can find at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln,” said Jordan Messerer, assistant director for Outdoor Adventures. “Our goal here at Outdoor Adventures has always been to hook people with fun first and, through that fun, we educate them through the unique experiences we offer. That will continue and be expanded in this new building.”

Like many other universities nationwide, UNL added an Outdoor Adventures program in 1971. It has always been a part of Campus Recreation and both were originally housed in the math testing facility at 1740 Vine Streets. Both moved into the Campus Recreation Center in 1989.

The adventures program started small, mainly helping organize classroom trips led by professors. Gradually the program added trip leaders — primarily students — who have taken over planning and leading of the outdoor excursions.

The number of Outdoor Adventures trips offered by Campus Rec has at least doubled in the last 10 years, Messerer said. In 2013, the program hosted more than 40 of the adventures.

“During spring break alone this year, we had students surfing in San Diego, two groups backpacking in Utah and a trip canoeing down the Green River to the confluence of the Colorado River,” Messerer said.

The new facility, along with extra meeting and training space, is expected to further grow the total number of trips.

The new indoor/outdoor climbing wall has five times the climbing opportunity over the old wall, growing from five ropes in the Campus Rec Center to 25-plus in the new building. It offers a variety of climbing opportunities, from amateur to veteran, and includes a 10-foot-tall bouldering area inside. The wall also allows for a variety of training opportunities, including rescue scenarios at various heights.

Messerer said a 10-foot bouldering area would be added to the outside wall. The space will be open to the public.

The interior wall drew most of the excitement during a May 1 sneak peak of the facility.

“I’ve climbed at the old wall for several years, so I’m excited to have a new wall to come to,” said Caitlin Weaver, graduate student in earth and atmospheric sciences. “I’m really excited about getting back into climbing regularly.”

Tiffany Wieser, a senior graphic design major, never used the old climbing wall in the Campus Rec Center, but saw the Outdoor Adventures facility as a way to try something new.

“I’m going to try to start climbing more and this gives me a reason to start,” Wieser said.

The wall has already drawn regional attention as more than 120 competitors participated in the Flatland Climbing Competition on April 12.

“They were all very impressed with the climbing wall,” Messerer said. “They are professionals and many said they’ve never seen a facility like this on a college campus. The closest climbing walls like this are in Kansas City or Des Moines, and those would be in specialized climbing gyms.”

UNL has a long-standing dedication to providing climbing training and experiences. The first wall was erected in 1976. It was a customizable flat concrete wall that doubled as a backstop to East Campus tennis courts. That original wall was removed about the one was added inside the Campus Rec Center in 1997.

While the new wall draws attention, the bike shop keeps quietly expanding its service to campus.

The bike shop started in 2003 as quick repair stations outside the Nebraska Union. The concept was to promote the Outdoor Adventures program while performing simple repairs, primarily inflating tires and lubing chains.

“Members of the campus community started coming to our door asking if we could work on their bikes, so we expanded services to help,” Messerer said. “Last year, we had around 3,000 job tickets completed. And that doesn’t include the number of people who come in for simple things like pumping air and lubing chains. It would be twice that total if we tracked everyone who came in the door.”

The new, dedicated bike shop includes both repairs and rentals.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the bike shop grow,” Messerer said. “People were finding it in the old space, even though they had to walk between cars and through a driveway just to get to our backdoor. Now, we’ll have more exposure in this new space and that will help people recognize that we have an affordable, dedicated bike repair/rental shop here at the Outdoor Adventures Center.”

Lauren Larsen, a trip leader for Outdoor Adventures, said that the new building is a space where faculty, staff, students and the public can come to challenge themselves.

“We offer people a chance to get outside and escape the streets of Lincoln,” Larsen said. “Here people can really get exposed to things in their backyard that they might not have ever thought was possible.”

The entire facility is a project of the 'Yes 2 Better Rec Centers' referendum approved by UNL students in October 2010. Students voted to appropriate student fees to improve the quality of the University's campus recreation facilities. Additional projects currently in progress are the new East Campus Rec Center (finishing in summer 2015) and the expansion and renovation of the City Campus Rec Center's Strength Training and Conditioning Room (opening August 2014).

For more information, including hours of operation and program costs, click here.

Sneak Peek: UNL Outdoor Adventures Center
UNL's first climbing wall was built in 1976. The wall allowed for various climbing elements to be bolted onto it. The wall also served as a backstop to East Campus tennis courts.
Participants in an Outdoor Adventures trip cross a stream in Colorado in the late 1970s. UNL's Outdoor Adventures program, which started in 1971, is a part of Campus Recreation.