Ozark Climbing Gym
Specs: An expansion is currently in the works for Ozark Climbing Gym (OCG), a family-owned bouldering gym in Springdale, Arkansas. Owned and operated by Jason and Bridgette Groves partially since 2013 and in full since 2017, OCG is expected to have its floor space doubled and will gain around 1,000 square feet of climbing surface through the expansion.
According to Jason, figuring out how to expand had been difficult, and banks in the area were hesitant to fund the original vision he and Bridgette had in mind. But adding a smaller expansion became a possibility when disaster struck. “The other half of our building had always been a different business and there was always someone renting the space. But in March of last year, there was a tornado, and our building was in the path,” recalled Jason.
Upon surveying the damage, Jason found their half of the facility was more or less untouched, with only slight cosmetic damages. The building next door, however, was not as lucky. The other half of the facility was struck by a wheelbarrow that punctured the building, causing the pressure variance to suck in the giant overhead door. “The 14-foot overhead door ripped from the top down—there was major damage. And because of the nature of their work, the former tenants really needed to be able to function in that space and they couldn’t,” Jason explained.
After the neighboring business was forced to relocate, the landlord asked Jason and Bridgette if they wanted to take over the connected space. “We knew this would be smaller [in] scale than what we wanted, but we knew we could make it work and the bank would be onboard with something this size. It was a silver lining to an unfortunate natural disaster,” said Jason.
“We’ve been wanting to expand for a really long time,” he added. “Our gym is small—my original lease footprint was 2,500 square feet.” The gym’s limited space had been posing a number of problems: Jason’s “private office” was a combination of the front desk area, his car, and the parking lot, the latter of which was limited in and of itself with 15 spots; youth programs were capped at a lower number than he wanted, so as to not bother other climbers in the crowded gym; minimum retail orders were hard to put together due to a lack of demand and space for gear; and the owners even had to get creative with storing essentials, like volumes, holds, and cleaning supplies.
With the expansion, Jason hopes OCG will better serve the climbers in Northwest Arkansas. The project will include building a slab wall, creating a fitness/weightlifting area, and installing a 12×12 Kilter Board, among other facility improvements. Jason is also excited that there will be more room to host competitions. “When 50 people sign up, we’re thinking, ‘Man, that is going to be packed,’” he said. “Events are elbow to elbow and a super fun time, but the gym is packed.” The expansion is expected to be completed by mid to late spring this year.
Walls: Owner/contractor; Kumiki
Flooring: Owner/contractor; UCS
CRM Software: Approach
In Their Words: “Not trying to do everything is really important for a smaller facility; find the things that you can do really, really well…I think I’m very particular because we want to ensure we are providing the community with a specific experience and vision. And that vision is focused on the joy of climbing and the partnerships individuals can build among themselves. I think we’re nailing it. I really do. We’re creating a space for people to find their own way in climbing and love climbing in their individual sense.” – Jason Groves, operator and co-owner
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