The Front Could Nab Prime Spokane Location


The new Spokane Front will be modeled on the Salt Lake facility. Photo: The Front.

The Salt Lake-based Front Climbing Club is hoping to expand their brand further north by grabbing a bit of prime real estate in Spokane, Washington.

Dustin Buckthal, an owner of The Front and the wall builder Vertical Solutions, told the Spokesman-Review that the Spokane facility will have about 20,000 square feet of climbing surface housed inside a 25,000 to 30,0000 square foot purpose-built building. The project is expected to break ground late this summer or in the early fall, Buckthal said.

The Front facility will be Spokane’s third climbing gym. The Bloc Yard Bouldering Gym opened in north Spokane last month. Wild Walls, Spokane’s first climbing gym, opened in 1995 and is mere blocks from the proposed property.

The sale price of the land hasn’t been determined, but Buckthal anticipates the project costing between $8 million and $10 million. Construction will take between 12 and 14 months.

But it’s not a done deal quite yet.

The property that Buckthal hopes to acquire sits on the banks of the Spokane River in the heart of downtown and is owned by the city. The deal, which would involve the sale of what’s now city park land to a private developer, could violate the City Charter, which requires the public to vote on the sale of park land. Though under the control of the parks department, the land has only ever been used as a parking lot.

City officials hope to work around the provision in the City Charter prohibiting the sale of park land without approval of voters by transferring the land from the parks department to other city departments before it’s sold to a developer.

Not all city council members are on board with the plan which sets up a battle on the definition of “park”.

According to the city’s charter: “Neither the park board nor the city council shall have the power to sell or exchange any existing park or portion thereof without the prior approval of the electorate given by a majority vote at the next ensuing general municipal election or special municipal election.”

For some city officials, the deal doesn’t violate the city’s charter because the land was never used as a park. However, if it is determined that the land swap violates the charter, the city and Buckthal would be open to alternate options such as leasing.

Regardless of what happens, Buckthal said he’s committed to working with the city to integrate the gym into the overall park plan. “We’re really excited about the project,” he said. “We’ve really enjoyed working with Spokane city and the leadership there.”