The old Fort Dodge Grain Terminal Elevator, located near Hawkeye Avenue and Loomis Park Road, has been an eyesore for years. Tagged with graffiti and serving as a roost for turkey buzzards, the large now unused structure is about to get a face lift and turn into an asset for the entire region.
The brainchild of Brad Messerly, Bud Pecoy and Kyle Rogers, the elevator walls will soon be covered with various handholds, and ropes will hang from the roof so wall climbers will be able say they successfully made it to the top of what will be the tallest climbing wall in Iowa.
"I'm hoping to pull people from across the state," Messerly said. Other climbing walls have done just that.
According to Messerly, the city of Fort Dodge has already given the project its green light and some work on the site has already begun - mostly cleanup and grading work.
Once completed, handholds for climbers will go all the way to the top of the 110-foot tall structure. There will also be some variable geometry overhangs to challenge climbers.
A rappelling area is planned as well as lines stretching away from the structure that climbers can glide across space on, ending up in a nearby wooded area.
There will also be a free climb area, much shorter than the elevator, where climbers can scale a wall without ropes.
Messerly stresses that safety will be paramount. Climbers on the wall have to wear the proper climbing gear and are attached to safety lines suspended from the top at all times. The area will be fenced in as well.
"Rock climbing is a great family activity," he said, adding, "This is an activity that is particularly suited for bonding with teenagers."
Messerly is also planning to offer canoe and kayak rentals which will give visitors another activity to participate in, paddling along on the nearby Des Moines River.
Once completed, the climbing wall will open during normal business hours. Although fees for users have yet to be set, Messerly says they will try to make it very affordable for everybody.
The group hasn't set an opening date yet, but it hopes to be up and running as soon as possible.
* Hans Madsen writes for the Fort Dodge Messenger and contributes to Associated Press.