Challenge Course Opens on South Campus

Part of the 'Cuse Challenge Course involves literally walking a tightrope.  If you look closely, you'll notice each participant is safely strapped in.

Part of the 'Cuse Challenge Course involves literally walking a tightrope. If you look closely, you'll notice each participant is safely strapped in.

On Sept. 27, 2013, the Department of Recreation Services within the Division of Student Affairs officially opened the outdoor challenge course located on South Campus, and began to run its first programs for Syracuse University students and departments, as well as community members.

The University broke ground this past May and has completed the construction of the ropes course. The outdoor education center is scheduled for completion by the end of October. A “Grand Opening” event, open to the campus community, will take place at the challenge course on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 9 a.m.

“It’s an amazing facility,” says Joe Lore, director of the Department of Recreation Services. “It’s one that’s unique, and will allow for an assortment of team building, and staff and personal development opportunities.”

The challenge course is not only open to SU students, faculty and staff, but to the surrounding community as well. It was designed to support groups, as well as individuals, in working together at accomplishing the various challenges presented in the course. The Outdoor Education Program within Recreation Services customizes the program to meet the needs of each group’s specific goals.

Already local schools and community organizations have expressed interest in programs on the challenge course. Each day, groups are being added to the schedule, including various student organizations and offices on campus.

“The outdoor education staff sequences various activities and elements on the course based on the group’s goals, in order to engage the group in a unique learning environment that models and reflects what often happens in real-life situations at school, work or in the community,” says Scott Catucci, associate director for education and student development. “During the program, our trained facilitators will engage the group members in discussions around particular topics, in order to help process the experience, so the learning that occurs on the challenge course can be transferred back to their particular group experience or personal lives.”

The seasoned outdoor education professionals, who facilitate the programs and implement the curriculum, along with trained student facilitators, provide a substantive opportunity for any office, department, student organization, corporation or group to work on such areas as leadership development, team building, personal growth and group support. Fun is a given, and teamwork is a must.

Participants enjoy a moment of rest high atop the 'Cuse Challenge Course.

Participants enjoy a moment of rest high atop the 'Cuse Challenge Course.

“We present individuals and groups with challenges that tend to push people out of their comfort zones,” says Matt Cowburn, outdoor education program coordinator. “For many people, it occurs on the high-climbing elements, but for others, it can be speaking out when not in agreement with the group’s plan for how to tackle a challenge. The real power of our program comes in the form of reflection, after the experience when we have our discussions.”

The challenge course itself features a series of high elements that are operated with static and dynamic belay systems. The static belay course can accommodate groups of up to eight people at a time, working together through the various elements. On the opposite side of the facility is the dynamic belay course that allows partners to work through the high challenges together.

Three towers are featured on the course, and groups can enter through the "giant hammock" cargo nets. Upon entering the towers, participants journey to either the first or second level of the challenge course, and complete the various tasks associated with each level.

Two additional highlights to the course elements are the dual zip line and triple leap of the faith. Off the southern-most tower stands the dual zip line, which enables two participants the opportunity to zip off the tower, either as a single event, or as a means of exiting the course after completing the elements. The triple leap of faith allows up to three people at a time to climb to the top of the 25-foot pole and leap toward a target—a testament to really stepping outside one’s comfort zone and confronting their fears.

The outdoor education center at the bottom of the hill, near the Inn Complete, is where participants can receive information, attend workshops and learn more about the many benefits of outdoor education as an experiential learning opportunity.

To book a program on the challenge course, or to learn more, visit

For questions, contact Catucci at

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