Largest Downtown Climbing Gym

Chattanooga, Tennessee is about to change the face of their downtown with a 28,000 sq. foot climbing gym and retail center making it the largest downtown climbing gym in the US. The $6.5 million project is expected to open October 2013 and house outdoor retailer, Rock/Creek which will open a 4,000-square foot store, which will sit next to a 1,600-square-foot coffee shop. According to High Point Climbing and Fitness, will have added 20 jobs to the U-shaped complex, which will retain the parking garage on its upper floors. The formerly vacant interior space will include a bouldering area as well. “There will be numerous bouldering walls that will include a wave wall, mushroom, arch, moon wall, campus wall, adjustable wall, and a 70-foot long cave in the main bouldering room,” said John Wiygul, partner and general manager of High Point Climbing and Fitness. Not counting the boulders, the complex will support up to 87 climbers at once, including a number of auto-belays. But the biggest draw isn’t what’s on the inside. It’s the building’s exterior that will set jaws wagging throughout the country, White said. In this case, tourists on Broad Street will be able to look across the Tennessee Aquarium’s plaza and watch climbers scramble up 14 climbing anchors spread across the exterior face of The Block.  Constructed of translucent plastic panels that each can withstand thousands of pounds of pressure as well as earthly elements like wind and the sun, the geometric skin of the facility will serve both as an architectural statement and a challenge to would-be climbers. Lights behind the 55-foot high climbing panels will brighten the night, and two specially designed speed climbing lanes will allow Chattanooga to host international climbing competitions, as well as offer practice opportunities to climbers who don’t mind an audience.
The project has ballooned by $2.5 million from its original projections, which called for a $4 million building. But doing something that’s never been done before isn’t easy, said Jim Williamson, vice president of planning and development for River City Co. Even finding a place for the 40-foot indoor climbing walls was a challenge. “For this to be a premiere site, they need to be at least 40 feet,” he said. “We only had 20 feet, and there are 600 cars above you so you can’t raise the roof.” So they dug out the concrete floor — an expensive, time-consuming process, but one that was a prerequisite to being taken seriously by the climbing community. The same pit can also be used to train emergency responders by inserting a length of drainpipe to simulate a well or other confined space into which a person might fall and require rescue.
Get Out Chattanooga is reporting:
Not everyone is thrilled to see that downtown’s new landmark will be a climbing gym. “I believe that the High Point Climbing Gym will have an immediate effect on the other two climbing gyms that are operating in town,” says Rebecca Robran, co-owner of Urban Rocks Gym off of Amnicola Highway. “Chattanooga may grow to the point where it can sustain three commercial facilities but it is not there right now. The question is whether or not the existing mom and pop facilities can keep their doors open long enough to meet the market growth.” For their part, the Block creators say they don’t want to put anyone out of business and believe the gym will raise awareness of climbing and generate more interest for all of the area’s climbing facilities. O’Brien says Boulder, Colo. has four climbing gyms that are all thriving. “I think this will elevate everyone else,” Wheeler says. Robran is not convinced. “With Boulder as an example, there are four commercial facilities there but all the facilities were built not with the idea of potential growth in the town but because the existing facilities were severely overcrowded throughout the year,” she explains. “Chattanooga’s market has not reached that point for the two existing facilities yet.” Luis Rodriguez, who opened the city’s first climbing gym, Tennessee Bouldering Authority in 1999, says he is not worried. “We’re not going to be in direct competition at all,” he explains. “It’s not going to hurt us; it’s going to help us by raising awareness for climbing.” Rodriguez says TBA is set up more as a “basement, hole in the wall” bouldering gym than a flashy setup with rope and high walls. He hopes the gym will be a landmark and help bring a national or international climbing festival to the area. “It’s going to become like the Aquarium,” he says. “It’s going to be known as part of downtown.”

Sexism At Psicobloc?

The Psicobloc Masters Series was one of the most hyped and viewed climbing comps in recent history.  By many measures it was a success, but some have spoken out about the treatment of women during the event.  Kristin Horowitz, the Executive Director of SLO Op Climbing Gym in San Luis Obispo, recently published an article on the sexism of Psicobloc’s emcees.
Originally Published at
The Importance of a Good Emcee: Psicobloc Masters Series and sexism At the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City, Utah, there was a big climbing competition.  What is usually a very high-production and live-streamed affair went big time this year. Walltopia designed a beautiful wall over the Olympic training pool for skijumpers, effectively creating a deep water solo competition up in Park City. The crowds ate it up. All of us watched the promotions for it, even if we weren’t into comps, and imagined either being there, or, if you’re an event producer who climbs, producing it. Unfortunately, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth after watching the real thing from home. The event was rampant with disrespect for the viewers, the competitors, and, most importantly, women in the sport. Emcees have an important role in events: they keep the energy up for spectators – explaining what’s happening, color commentating on events or athlete backgrounds, make the competitors feel good about themselves, and are the face of the entire event for the public. Keeping the Energy Up During the course of the 20 min clip below, the emcees let dead air hang – only to be punctuated randomly by competitor’s names and words of enthusiasm like, “Yes!” When they did announce the action, it was in simplistic terms – there was no clarity for those of us watching, “Those of us out there, sport climbers know about the flash pump – it is not a fun thing.” What’s sport climbing? What’s a flash pump? Tell me, please! Again, Colette tries but fails: “Everyone should keep in mind, these are hard routes. They’re bad holds, people that maybe don’t climb a lot, it looks like they just reach up and grab the thing.” Really? That’s the best you can do to bring me into the experience? Can you tell me about the holds, about what it feels like, about what makes a hard route? Make me experience it. Use the climbers moving to help me envision it. Tell a story. Very little was said about the athletes themselves except when one gal had an ear injury and catch up on that, or if they were scared. The emcees would grab the competitors before and after, prompting things that were really vapid or simply ignorant: JT, “It felt a lot different from last time, right?” Competitor: “Not really.” Sigh . . . expand on it, people, make it interesting to us. Why did you assume it was different? Make the Competitor Feel Good JT put words in Alex Johnson’s mouth, but she handled it well. When it was her heat-mate’s turn to talk, JT gave her nothing but a “good luck.” Alex got all the attention and Nina, none of it. While these are prime athletes and slights like that should roll off their backs, his interactions did nothing to encourage focus and competition. The dominant conversation theme with the women was their fear, not so with the men. Ask any sport psychologist – focusing on a competitor’s weakness isn’t going to empower them. The Face of the Event Both JT and Colette announced the event like amateurs, disconnecting themselves from the event’s producers, saying things like “Whoever put this on . . . “ Ditsy comments; unorganized, badly timed comments. Bad interviews. It all felt like a terrible afterthought while I watched. You could laugh it all away, except these two were the representatives of Psicobloc and climbing to the general public. Whoever asked them to be a part of this really didn’t respect what they were putting out there or the people that competed or put it on. But there was a much bigger problem, more problematic to the climbing community than bad emceeing: rampant sexism. Events Send a Message to the Public Colette at one point exclaims, “I LOVE Andrea’s tan! I’m jealous.” Do golf or football announcers do things like this to serious athletes they’re commenting about? What about Andrea’s movement? Her form? Her commitment? At another point, Colette introduces an extremely sexist conversation point, complaining about the comp rash guards given to the women, “I can’t see their cute tops underneath!” JT picks up on this and says he’s going to “File a complaint because yesterday they were climbing in string bikini tops – so, whoever’s organizing this thing: come on!” No, YOU come on. Unless you’re going to file a complaint that Chris Sharma’s not climbing in a Speedo along with it. In later clips, the men are WAY more dressed and . . . it’s JUST NOT FAIR. I want to see muscles! But, it’s very easy to lay all the blame on the emcees they hired, but there’s a bigger factor at play, as revealed by the female emcee, Colette, 20 minutes into the clip: “Originally, they were going to cut out some of the women climbers. There were too many women climbers and they sent some of the women home, but in the end, all the girls said, ‘You know what, we want to compete, we’re all here – we’re going to compete’ and they ended up bringing all of the women back.” “They” decided there were too many women and they cut out the women? Thanks a lot, event producers. Climbing is very much a male-dominated sport, but the women climbing achieve at an equal level to men across most disciplines. Fans of climbing can likely name as many famous, accomplished women climbers as men. It’s not the WNBA here (a counterpoint to a long history of male-dominated sports, and an ineffective one), and there’s no reason to foster that attitude in the nascent climbing events distributed to the greater public worldwide. Sponsors of this event, do you hear me? Prana, Walltopia, Adidas, Clif, and all others – do you support the sexism displayed in this event? Will you continue to support marketing, media, and events that do not show a commitment to the equality and ability of your professional climbing women? You have the power to change this dialog – now is the time, before it’s too late. This is not the 1950s and 1960s. Our mothers were on the walls and in Camp 4 alongside the men so that we could be in these competitions today with the men. And not a single one of them would have let the guys treat them as badly as this comp treated their granddaughters. You can blame it on the emcees, but this goes a lot deeper and deserves some intelligent conversation. A link to the analyzed clip referenced in the article:

A New Softer Spot Falling at The Spot just got easier. The Boulder climbing gym spent $180,000 to replace roughly 6,500 square feet of flooring, which is specially designed to withstand falls from the gym’s bouldering walls. The new floor, made of heavyweight open-cell urethane with a vinyl cover, is significantly thicker in some places, going from 6 inches to 16 inches over most of the gym. Owner Dan Howley said the new flooring system from company Futurist Climbing should be more durable and last for six years. The Spot has around 15,000 square feet of total climbing terrain, all of which is for bouldering, or non-roped climbing. “For us, it’s quintessential,” Howley said. “In a roped climbing gym, the ropes are your main protection. In a bouldering gym, every fall is a ground fall. (The floor) is technically more important than the walls themselves.” In the past, climbers have placed additional mats under their route for added protection. Howley said those mats aren’t necessary with the new, thicker floor. “It’s much safer,” he said. “It’s consistent. It’s flat. The gym’s in the best shape ever.” The Spot, which wasn’t actually closed during the floor replacement,

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Trublue Changes Name and CEO

The company that makes and sells America’s most widely used auto belay system is changing their name. Trublue LLC, the designer and seller of the popular Trublue Auto Belay, is changing its company name to Head Rush Technologies. According to the company the name change reflects its growing breadth and depth of products, which includes climbing auto belay devices, zipline equipment and climbing holds under their Franklin Handholds brand. Its sister company, Eldorado Wall Company, will continue to manufacture climbing wall products under the Eldorado brand. Also in store for the company is a change in leadership, with Candie Fisher taking over the role of CEO. Fisher has been with the company since its inception in 2009, when the company launched the Trublue Auto Belay. She was most recently the company’s Vice President of Marketing and was responsible for sales, marketing and distribution.
“Candie has demonstrated tremendous leadership skills and an interest in all facets of our business. Candie is not only capable, but driven and extremely motivated to help Head Rush Technologies reach its potential,” said Mr. McGowan, Trublue’s Founder and President. McGowan will remain involved in the company and will continue to drive its product development initiatives. “I am thrilled to be taking on an expanded leadership role with Head Rush Technologies,” said Fisher. “My co-workers and I are poised to continue the growth of our company as the leading innovator of adventure equipment.” Head Rush Technologies plans to release several new products through the end of 2013 and early 2014, including the TRUBLUE XL Long Line Auto Belay and the quickJump Free Fall Device.