For an avid rockhound living in Boulder, it’s not so much a question of whether or not to join a climbing gym, it’s which one to join. Unfortunately, Summit County climbing enthusiasts can’t say the same. After Chizzled Fitness, a 3,200-square-foot climbing gym in Silverthorne, went out of business last spring, the only real indoor climbing option left was the 1,400-square-foot converted racquetball court at the Breckenridge Recreation Center.
But that’s about to change, according to a group of seven local climbers. The group is in the process of finalizing a lease and reopening the vacant climbing gym.
Located in the same building as Sears in Silverthorne, the gym has had two owners since it first opened in 2002 and has twice gone out of business.
“The expenses outweighed the revenue,” said original owner Mike Wolfson, discussing his reasons for giving up the business.
He closed the gym in 2005, and is now part of the effort to reopen, with a decidedly different business model.
The facility went unused until 2011, when it was reopened by the owners of Chizzled Fitness. Both Wolfson and Chizzled Fitness leased the space, which is now bank owned under foreclosure.
“We’re their last shot,” said Kent Sharp, one of the other seven climbers looking to reopen the gym.
If they don’t succeed, the existing climbing wall structures will likely be gutted in order to convert the building into more viable commercial space.
Why should this time around be any different for a climbing facility that has struggled to sustain itself in the past?
Sharp said it will be because of the new business model — one based around not making money. It’s not a nonprofit exactly, but rather a co-op.
Unlike previous owners, “nobody’s trying to make a living off of it,” Sharp said of their approach.
Wolfson, the first owner, also pointed out that the current lease will be much less than what it was for him and the owners that followed him.
“It’s a third of what it used to be,” he said.
The new group plans to make it a climbing gym run by climbers for climbers.
“The members will take care of the place,” Sharp said.
The group’s only goal is to break even. Any revenue will be used to buy and maintain equipment.
Sharp said they currently have 36 people committed to one-year memberships.
“If we can get 50 to 60 annual members, that’s really all it’s going to take to make it work,” he said.
As to where they stand now? “We’re pretty far along,” Sharp said. “As soon as we get the lease finished, we’ll get in and clean it up.”
They are hoping they can reopen the facility by Nov. 1.
Sharp said the facility is essentially move-in ready, and will not require too much maintenance. The main things missing are the handholds, which the previous owner took with him when he shut the place down.
The group is still looking to sign up as many new members as possible prior to opening.
“There’s a lot of expenditures that we’re going through,” Sharp said.
While currently offering only annual memberships, the co-op eventually will offer six-month or monthly membership options, Sharp said.
Annual membership will start at $600, with a $100 initiation fee that will be waived for the first 40 members.
The founding co-op members are confident that this new model will be far more sustainable than in the past.
“It’s much more affordable and much more feasible,” Wolfson said.
Members of the co-op met Thursday night to review the lease. They expect to have it finalized and start moving in the coming weeks.