Capital Holds Expands to Include South Carolina Bouldering Gym

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Capital Climbing gym walls
Capital Climbing is filling a climbing gym void in Columbia, South Carolina, and fulfilling a “long-term dream” of founder Chris Neal. (All photos courtesy of Capital Climbing)

Capital Climbing
Cayce, South Carolina

Specs: The owner of Capital Holds, Chris Neal, expanded his business this summer to include a bouldering facility, a “long-term dream” of his spanning more than a decade. Capital Climbing opened on June 11 in Cayce, South Carolina, a city on the outskirts of Columbia. And while Neal wanted to open a facility for years, the first steps did not become feasible until late 2021. “It wasn’t so much that I wanted to open now, it’s just that it was finally a financial possibility,” Neal explained. “I decided about a year ago that I was going to stop investing into holds and start preparing for what I was going to do at the gym.” Through Vertical Solutions/Proxy, the manufacturer of Capital Holds, Neal built credit by selling his shapes, and he used that credit toward the gym’s climbing walls.

Trango Holds Pardners

Built in a former dollar store, the 1975 building required major renovations to house a bouldering facility that fit Neal’s vision. He did much of what he described as the “brunt work”—taking down the entire drop ceiling, removing all the running lights, demolishing the flooring tiles and cleaning the floor, then cleaning and sealing the concrete. “There were definitely a lot of hiccups,” Neal acknowledged. “This has been a major learning process. With every turn, I’m like, ‘I learned that, and now I know it and it would’ve been nice to know it before now.’” A larger issue for him surrounded permitting and state building requirements. “South Carolina in particular has a law where, if your building as a whole is over 5,000 square feet, you are legally required to have an architect for any type of building changes.” So, to change the building occupancy and the “use type” of the space, Neal had to find both an architect and a general contractor to help get everything to code, such as upgrading the amenities to be ADA compliant.

Chris Neal setting at his new gym
“Routesetting and shaping holds have always been my preferred way to connect with people through climbing, and seeing people interact with my designs and climbs has been exceptionally rewarding,” Neal (pictured) said on Instagram following the gym’s opening.

But it was worth the effort, according to Neal, because Cayce needed a gym. The closest climbing gym is about 1.5 hours away in Augusta or Charlotte; the next nearest is close to 2 hours away in either Greenville or Charleston. In Cayce, there’s the added benefit of being in proximity of downtown Columbia but without the “same tax headaches,” said Neal. “As Columbia is reaching its max capacity, it’s starting to push outwards, and we’re right on the edge of that.” Located in a strip mall next to a fitness gym and with thousands of apartments five minutes away by bike, Neal hopes Capital Climbing will be frequented by college students attending the University of South Carolina.

OnSite

The 5,900-square-foot space features over 2,000 square feet of bouldering, including a 60-degree overhanging boulder situated in front of a large window space and a Kilter Board. “We are not a heavily climbing-based community; we have to build our customer base,” Neal said. “We’re going to be operating off of the majority of our customers being V0 to V2 climbers.” As such, he opted to build shorter walls and chose to focus on bouldering. He did note, however, that eventually he hopes to expand to multiple locations, with climbing and amenities scaled to different populations. “If you’re going to do anything,” Neal added, “you should always plan for the inevitable ability that you might do another one.”

Climbing at Capital Climbing
A bouldering-focused gym operator for now, Neal is open to the idea of opening additional Capital Climbing gym locations in the future.

Walls: Vertical Solutions
Flooring: Habit
CRM Software: RGP
Website: capitalgyms.com
Instagram: @capitalclimbingcayce

In Their Words: “The plan itselfthe size of it and everything like thathas changed pretty consistently. Every year it looks different…My greatest suggestion would certainly be to do everything before you ever sign a lease. Getting your floor plans, measuring out your space, doing your zoning, getting your architect on board, getting your wall planned out with the wall company—doing all of that before you sign the lease, and ensuring that you know everything. It just makes the whole thing so much faster.” – Chris Neal, owner and founder of Capital Holds and Capital Climbing

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