Joining Meadow Brook Hall and athletic events, a high ropes adventure and challenge course will be the latest installment of attractions that draw people to campus.
The Oakland University Board of Trustees voted on Monday, Feb. 5 to authorize the negotiation of a contract to lease three acres of currently unused land on the corner of Adams and Walton to TreeRunner Adventure Parks.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with a local group,” said Greg Jordan, director of University Recreation and Well-Being. “It’s a win-win [with] benefits to students, benefits to the community, benefits to the university and fun. If you get a physical fitness component and have fun at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The partnership is the result of a task force created by Oakland’s previous president, George Hynd, and led by Chief Operating Officer Scott Kunselman and Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn McIntosh, with the intention of finding partnership opportunities with a focus on student life.
The course is expected to open in late June or early July of 2018, with a signed contract potentially occurring the next six to eight weeks and construction, which will have no impact on student life is estimated to take around 12 weeks.
A student discount will likely bring the ticket cost for the two and a half to three hour experience down to $20 for OU students.
According to Principal at TreeRunner Adventure Parks Gaal Karp, OU will have between five and 12 different courses, and degrees of challenge, within the experience as well as an estimated 20,000 climbers each year.
Since negotiations are still taking place, it is unclear what the blueprints of the course will look like. But it is expected to have a large variety of horizontal climbing obstacles such as tarzan swings, rolling logs, tight ropes, swinging disks and the favorite: ziplines. The main decks of which the obstacles branch off of, are typically suspended 10 to 30 feet in the air depending on the trees in the area.
Karp reported around 20 staff members will be needed to run the course and the majority will be Oakland students. Other opportunities exist in potential internships including in marketing, in leadership in regard to a team building program and even in hospitality and tourism.
“Being at the university, there’s such a great opportunity to engage the students with different means of being active but also learning to work together and different networking that can happen,” said Amanda Mcclellan, business manager of TreeRunner Adventure Parks Grand Rapids location.
Both OU and TreeRunner Adventure Parks’ first concern is with climber safety, for which there will be industry-leading harnesses, followed by protecting the environment.
Arborists will be involved in the entirety of the building process, determining whether platforms should be secured to trees using compression or nails and will return for annual inspections according to Jordan, who also serves on the campus environment committee.
The course poses no financial risk to the University and may even bring in a percentage of commission based on sales, dependent on the contract negotiations.
The course will be open seven days a week during the summer, on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays during the spring and early fall months and on weekdays for group registrations.
“It’s an opportunity to put down your phones, laptops and social media and get outdoors,” Karp said.