Specs: Located just a few miles from Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine, the 10,000-square-foot Volta Climbing gym will feature bouldering and roped climbing, along with a Kilter Board, fitness and cardio equipment, a classroom/party room, and an upstairs yoga space on a mezzanine. The gym’s exterior will include a solar roof, as well as a recycled plastic parking surface (TrueGrid) instead of traditional pavement, and multiple electric vehicle charging stations. In preparation, the gym has made a point to select vendors and concessions that reflect sustainability values. “We are committed to moving in this direction more and more, and want to be a leader this way,” co-founder Ann Grinnell tells CBJ. “Beyond sustainability, this quality is a huge value of ours and something we want to provide for our members—the most efficient HVAC system we could buy, ClimbLab, is providing air filtration and a hold-washing station; UCS is doing the floors. Our brand, too, is something we are really working hard on (with Erika Flynn of GoodMajick).”
Additional gym interior amenities will include work tables, as well as a dedicated “tiered rappel station for SAR training,” which will have specific significance for the nearby national park and local municipalities, according to Grinnell (whose husband, Jesse Cameron, is the gym’s other founder). Grinnell tells CBJ that the gym chose Kilter as the supplier of its initial hold order. Also, the gym’s location is noteworthy, as it is positioned on the singular road that leads to Mount Desert Island, which sees a wide variation in traffic: anywhere from 15,000 cars in the winter months to more than 40,000 cars per day in the summer tourist season. (The population of the island, typically around 10,000 residents, surges to more than 3 million visitors during the summer season.)
Grinnell credits a local named Jeff Butterfield, one of the original owners of the nearby Atlantic Climbing School and the author of an area climbing guidebook, as having the thought to establish a climbing gym in the region more than 15 years ago. “[Co-founder] Jesse [Cameron] and I feel lucky to bring it to fruition and love that there is an arc to this project beyond us,” Grinnell says, noting that the Atlantic Climbing School continues to provide instruction on the island. Another local guiding company, Acadia Mountain Guides, also operates nearby. Such entities speak to a robust, established climbing community already being active in the area.
“Everything Jesse [Cameron] and I have learned in our lives is applicable to this project,” says Grinnell, who has been a life coach for the past six years. “Jesse will be leading the routesetting charge (after being the general contractor, foreman, lead designer, landscaper, etc.). I have been working behind the scenes on programming with a select few people—like Butterfield and Rye Murray—and website, retail, and merch and interior design. I will be running behind the scenes once we open.”
In Their Words: “We have always thought of this as bigger than the two of us, we are ushers or stewards, and collaboration is at the heart of our mission: how do we pull in the knowledge, wisdom and experience of what exists already in the field, while being innovative and daring to look at things in a new way for our specific area? It’s so fun and so exciting. We live in a community that enjoys the outdoors so much, but there is a real need for healthy indoor options. Because there is already a rich climbing community, coupled with this general need for indoor recreation, the enthusiasm is beyond. We really want to provide something that is playful and inspiring, to climbers of all ages, levels, and abilities. Paradox Sports plans to come to do an adaptive training workshop and we are so excited to be able to open the gym up in this way. Already we have reached out to local schools and are starting to design programming that can become a part of the wellness and health curriculum, as well as another sport option beyond the usual offerings in the area.”
—Ann Grinnell, Co-Founder
John Burgman is the author of High Drama, a book that chronicles the history of American competition climbing. He is a Fulbright journalism grant recipient and a former magazine editor. He holds a master’s degree from New York University and bachelor’s degree from Miami University. In addition to writing, he coaches a youth bouldering team. Follow him on Twitter @John_Burgman and Instagram @jbclimbs. Read our interview Meet John Burgman, U.S. Comp Climbing’s Top Journalist.