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New rock gym coming to Tacoma

Post by Craig Hill / The News Tribune on Aug. 31, 2009 at 2:12 pm with No Comments »
August 31, 2009 2:12 pm


The News Tribune

Tacoma is set to get a second indoor venue for rock climbers by the middle of October.

Vertical World, the state’s largest rock gym chain, plans to open a bouldering gym at 102 South 24th Street in the building previously occupied by Action Business Furniture.

The bouldering facility will not have roped-climbing and will be part of the company’s manufacturing facility, said Vertical World owner Rich Johnston.

"This kind of came through the back door," said Johnston. "We were just looking at putting our wall manufacturing in Tacoma."

Johnston wanted to move the facility in order to accommodate Ryan Spence, his wall-building specialist. Spence lives in Tacoma and was tired of commuting to Seattle, Johnston said.

The 8,000-square-foot building in Tacoma is four times larger than its current manufacturing site in Seattle and larger than Johnston needed.

"So, we said, let’s open a bouldering gym," Johnston said.

In addition to operating rock gyms in Bremerton, Redmond, Seattle and Everett, Vertical World manufactures climbing walls for schools and other climbing gyms. Vertical World built the climbing wall for the set of MTV’s 1998 show "The Real World: Seattle" as well as Tacoma’s short-lived Thrill-Zone Extreme Sports Center.

Vertical World opened in 1989 in Seattle and claims to be the country’s first rock gym.

Vertical World will be Tacoma’s second climbing gym.

Edgeworks has been the mainstay of the Tacoma rock gym scene since 2004 when Tod Bloxham opened the 9,500-square-foot gym at 6102 N. Ninth St.

Edgeworks offers a bouldering area but also has climbing walls for roped climbing.

"I don’t want to cannibalize his business," Johnston said of Edgeworks. "A bouldering gym is pretty limited. He’s a roped gym with full programs for schools. This is more for the bouldering crowd."

Johnston said construction of the bouldering facility should go smoothly considering it’s in the same building as the manufacturing plant.

"No shipping," Johnston said. "He (Spence) just has to walk a few feet."

Rates and an exact opening date have not been set, but Johnston said the facilities progress will be updated on his website,

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