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SALT LAKE CITY — Reputations can be hard to shake. Which is why lots of people generally have the same reaction when you ask them about Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake City.
"It has challenges," said Matt Caputo, who runs Caputo's market and deli across the street from the park. "But, like every big city or quasi-big city, you've got issues like that to deal with."
He notices the homeless people in the park, but says there's a big difference between people who are homeless and people who are criminals.
"When it's just empty all the time, there's a lot of crime going on over there. That's not good. That's not safe," Caputo said.
Friday, and all this weekend, Pioneer Park won't be empty at all.
"Things like this, we love to see," Caputo said.
Some of the best climbers in the world from several different countries are here to compete in an International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup event.
Temporary climbing walls have been built in Pioneer Park for the event.
Many of the climbers are Olympians from the 2020 Tokyo Games.
"This is the Olympic games in a non-Olympic year," said Marc Norman, CEO of USA Climbing.
Norman moved USA Climbing's headquarters from Boulder, Colorado, to Salt Lake City a few years ago.
Pioneer Park was full of people on Friday cheering on the best climbers in the world. We're doing a story on this @ifsclimbing event and what it means for local businesses who are hoping the park's reputation can change with events like this one. @KSL5TV at 10 #ksltv@USAClimbingpic.twitter.com/uNz7jd8E1Q— Alex Cabrero (@KSL_AlexCabrero) May 21, 2022
He always envisioned Utah being a world class climbing destination.
Having this World Cup event at Pioneer Park, with families coming here to enjoy the event who may be visiting the park for the first time, shows just how far the popularity of sport climbing has come.
"Look at all these trees. It's beautiful. This is an amazing venue in the heart of the city, that is really what drove us," Norman said. "I think the city has been extremely welcoming to us coming into the park."
Several Salt Lake City administrations have tried for years to change Pioneer Park's reputation.
For those who live and work near here, seeing an event like a climbing championship is a welcome change.
"I mean, it's getting better and better all the time. Yeah," Caputo said.
The speed climbing event was held Friday. Saturday and Sunday is the bouldering discipline of sport climbing. Both will be held in Pioneer Park, as well as another World Cup event here next weekend, and a Paraclimbing event May 24 and 25.