New Bouldering Gym With “Skate Vibes” Is Coming to Asheville’s River Arts District

image of The Foundy Cultivate location
Cultivate Climbing, an Asheville based gym chain, is opening its first bouldering-focused facility (pictured) in the River Arts District, in proximity to plenty of restaurants, shops, and entertainment businesses. (All images courtesy of Cultivate Climbing)
Cultivate Climbing Foundy building art
North-Carolina-based Cultivate Climbing is planning to open its second location (pictured) in Asheville—the city’s sole bouldering gym—this fall in an old skate park in town; in fact, the gym’s owners are hoping to “bring some of the skate culture and skate vibes to bouldering.” (All images courtesy of Cultivate Climbing)

Cultivate Climbing
Asheville, North Carolina

Specs: Cultivate Climbing, the operator of a mixed-discipline climbing gym—Cultivate’s “The River” location—in Asheville, North Carolina, is planning to open a second location just one mile away. The new facility—nicknamed “Foundy”—will be a 13,000-square-foot, bouldering-focused gym with 8,000 square feet of climbing, designed to complement The River. Originally operated by ClimbMax Climbing, current co-owners Devin DeHoll and Shiloh Mielke purchased The River as well as ClimbMax’s first gym from Stuart Cowles in April 2022 and rebranded the two gyms in September 2022. The purpose of the name change was “to breathe a new brand…to reflect what we wanted our brand to identify with, which was inclusive space for all climbers,” said DeHoll.

Capitan software

In 2023, Cultivate management decided it was time to close the first ClimbMax location, which had been built in 1993. DeHoll said the original, downtown gym “was pretty dated and needed a lot of renovation, rehab, upfitting,” and the Cultivate team had their eyes on expansion. Instead of operating three gyms, the owners opted to “pool [their] resources into having one much bigger facility,” DeHoll explained, while continuing to focus on keeping The River going strong.

According to DeHoll, he started looking for a potential spot for a new gym within six months of purchasing The River. “We realized really quickly that we were at capacity and that it was our obligation to our climbing community to try and expand,” he added. DeHoll found it odd that there wasn’t currently a bouldering gym in Asheville, because of “where it seems the industry is moving broadly,” and the availability of outdoor bouldering nearby. (The previous bouldering gym in the area—Iron Palm Bouldering—was on the outskirts of town and closed in 2016.)

Outdoor bouldering at The River
The River location (pictured) has been “packed to the gills at all times,” said Cultivate Marketing Director Martin DeFrance, prompting the decision to open a second gym.

Tentatively opening on October 1st, the Foundy gym is being constructed in an old skate park in Asheville’s River Arts District. DeHoll noted similarities between the countercultural roots of climbing culture and skate culture, and he said the management team is excited to “bring some of the skate culture and skate vibes to bouldering” by “leaving a lot of things really raw inside the gym.” Specifically, the team plans to keep the murals and street art, “just upgraded and turned into a really cool bouldering gym,” he said. The bouldering walls will be made of birch, the same material as the former half pipes. Additionally, Cultivate plans to upcycle the old birch veneer from the half pipes into cubbies and front desk elements. The outdoor portion of the skate park will remain open to the public, leaving the door open for some crossover between the two sports.

Elevate Climbing Walls

After looking at multiple locations, the chosen site for the new gym “felt like a unicorn” to the Cultivate team, DeHoll said, not only because of the skate undercurrents and aesthetic factors but also because of the “cool history in the Foundy development.” Near the new gym will be former tanneries, mills and the like that have been renovated and rehabbed into various modern businesses: a coffee shop, a yoga studio, art galleries, restaurants, breweries, shopping options, and a local fine arts theater (great for potential Reel Rock showings, DeHoll suggested).

With Foundy being one mile from The River, the gym’s owners are also excited about how the two spaces will complement one another. “Our current facility and the proximity to two makes it so that if one is really crowded, the other one is not far away, and vice versa,” DeHoll said. “We thought the two gyms could share resources and exist as one-and-a-half facilities that are in the same neighborhood.” For example, The River will have a Kilter Board and Moonboard, while Foundy will have a Tension Board 2 and an adjustable spray wall. And management hopes they’ll be able to grow the youth programs now without interfering with member climbing.

More murals and street art outside the Foundy gym
The Foundy gym building’s interior will be getting fresh climbing walls, but the owners are making a point to keep the street art and murals along the building’s exterior intact.

In addition to the above amenities, Foundy will feature 15-foot bouldering walls built by Walltopia; a fitness and weight room; and a food, drink and gear shop. The gym’s operators also hope to give back to the community through affinity nights and other local events. Cultivate is partnering with the Carolina Climber’s Coalition, for instance, and while the details are still being figured out, inclusivity and accessibility are two goals for the partnership.

Walls: Walltopia
Flooring: UCS
CRM Software: Approach
Instagram: @CultivateClimbing

In Their Words: “It’s a growing industry…I think that there’s a lot of space in the industry still for individual operators in different markets to grow and expand and to offer experiences that are unique and different than what some larger gym chains might be offering…Practical advice: Plan in a lot of extra time, because delays are constant and inevitable, and they’re complex projects that have a lot of back and forth. This has been one of the more difficult commercial projects I’ve worked on.” – Devin DeHoll, co-owner of Cultivate Climbing