First Ascent Expands Beyond Illinois With Sixth Facility

First Ascent Station Square
FA Station Square marks the midwestern climbing gym chain’s sixth location and its first expansion outside the state of Illinois. (All images of FA Station Square’s grand opening, courtesy of First Ascent Climbing & Fitness)

FA Station Square
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Specs: Chicago-based First Ascent Climbing & Fitness (FA) recently opened the doors of its sixth facility—the climbing gym chain’s first location outside of Illinois. After spending some time in Pittsburgh, Jon Shepard and Dan Bartz, two of the gym’s co-founders, decided to expand eastward when a property became available in the city’s historic Station Square.

In the spring of 2021, they began construction for the new Pittsburgh gym, located in a former freight house. Station Square, as the name implies, was formerly a railroad station, which led to some challenges during the build. For example, the owners had to resurface and level all of the concrete that had “degraded over the years.” These challenges, however, were followed by rewards. “One really fun thing about building a climbing gym in that space is you end up with these awesome, modern looking climbing features. We love to do really bright colors too. With this backdrop of all this cool history, it’s a really fun dichotomy in that space,” Bartz said.

Eldorado Climbing


According to a press release, FA Station Square aims to provide a “unique blend of fitness and fun.” In terms of climbing, the 30,000-square-foot facility features 10,000 square feet of bouldering terrain (+200 problems) and a climbing training area with campus boards, hangboards and a MoonBoard. The new bouldering and fitness gym will provide a full array of classes and programs as well, from youth camps and birthday parties to climbing teams and yoga classes. A 12,000-square-foot fitness area contains two yoga studios and a full fitness gym, and additional amenities include a pro shop, lounge and workspace, and food and beverage options.

FA likely isn’t done expanding in 2022. A new mixed discipline facility—expected to be the gym developer’s largest yet—is planned to open this summer in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago. The addition of the Arlington Heights location will bring FA’s climbing gym total to seven.

Grand opening of FA Station Square
The climbing and fitness areas at the new Station Square facility are “wrapped in the unique architecture and history of the Freight House,” according to the gym’s press release.

Walls: Walltopia
Flooring: Strati Climbing
CRM Software: Mindbody
Instagram: @faclimbingpittsburgh

In Their Words: “We craft spaces where all are welcome to experience adventure, explore movement, connect with others, and have fun. Best of all, anybody can enjoy climbing, no matter your age or ability level. Climbers as young as 3 and as old as 75 climb regularly at FA gyms, and climbing is an activity you can enjoy as a family, with friends, alongside your spouse or significant other, and with people you just met at the gym.” – Dan Bartz, co-founder