Family-Owned Missouri Gym Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

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Climbing at Zenith Climbing Center
Zenith launched in 2016 at an opportune time for Springfield climbers, only months after the previous climbing gym in town had closed. (All images courtesy of Zenith)

Zenith Climbing Center
Springfield, Missouri

Specs: Zenith Climbing Center, a family-owned and mixed-discipline climbing facility in Springfield, Missouri, first opened its doors to the public in the spring of 2016. Sisters Jamie Strong and Audrey Pauls, as well as Audrey’s husband Everett Pauls, were working on a business plan for a modern gym when Big Rock, the previous gym in town which had existed since the 90s, announced its closing. The owners thus decided to fast track their plan to get funding and wall designs. “The rest is history,” said Strong.

 

Since Springfield was the sisters’ hometown, the owners were opening the facility with firsthand knowledge of the area. “We are within two hours of some great outdoor climbing, and we had a climbing community that wasn’t being served,” Strong explained. “We wanted to build something for them, ourselves, and also to introduce others to the sport.” Part of that objective was offering both bouldering and roped climbing, but there were few suitable building options at the time with high enough clearance for taller climbing walls. Fortunately, one of the few locations that would work was in a desirable spot, “near one of the main highways and busiest streets in town,” described Strong.

Retrofitted to an old indoor tennis complex, the 40-foot building was tall enough to house the gym’s 38-foot climbing walls. In total, Zenith features around 9,000 square feet of climbing surface across its bouldering and roped walls. Amenities include a Tension Board, campus/pull-up area, and a small fitness area with equipment. As for the gym’s community programming, Zenith hosts a variety of youth and adult classes, such as Climbing 101 and Lead classes, as well as short clinics periodically that cover Gym to Crag topics, Anchor Building and Self Rescue.

According to Strong, Zenith may not be done growing either. Talks of an expansion gym in Springfield are currently in the works, and the planned gym is expected to be “on a larger plot of land that’s more centrally located,” hinted Strong.

Belaying at Zenith
Finding a large enough building was key to offering the auto belay, top-rope and lead climbing at Zenith―as well as accompanying programming―that the owners had in mind.

Walls: Walltopia
Flooring: Self-built
CRM Software: RGP
Website: zenithclimbing.com
Instagram: @zenithclimbingcenter

In Their Words: “The climbing gym is one of the only places where people can come together from all sorts of backgrounds, beliefs and ideologies, and still find some common ground that brings them together. That’s so important.” – Jamie Strong, co-owner