To make way for affordable housing, popular rock climbing gym shutters this weekend

Take a walk through Urban Ascent from a climber's point of view

Urban Ascent, a rock climbing gym on Fairview and 25th, is closing April 28th. Climber Jordan Meyer took a tour to memorialize it.
Up Next
Urban Ascent, a rock climbing gym on Fairview and 25th, is closing April 28th. Climber Jordan Meyer took a tour to memorialize it.

Boise's affordable housing gain will mean a loss for the local rock climbing community as one of the city's only rock climbing gyms closes to make way for a new income-based apartment development.

Urban Ascent, 308 S. 25th St. in Boise, will close its doors for good on Saturday, April 28, as workers build

Adare Manor, an apartment complex offering units for a variety of income levels.

"This is one of those projects that are a rare opportunity for the city (to provide affordable housing)," said Mike Journee, spokesman for the city of Boise. "One of the tools that we do have is leveraging land that the city owns."

The complex would offer 134 units of rental housing at a variety of income levels, with the majority reserved for households whose income is between 30 and 80 percent of the Treasure Valley's median wage.

Of course, the Treasure Valley is in serious need of affordable housing options at the moment. But that doesn't soften the blow for the gym's 600-plus members, who hoped the gym would remain intact at least until a later stage of construction.

Steve Lampkins, the owner of Urban Ascent, said he was in talks with developer Thomas Development Co. for more than a year and a half. Until quite recently, Lampkins said, Thomas had hoped to run the climbing gym for another year. But liability and other issues made that "logistically impossible," Lampkins said, and Urban Ascent members and staff got word in mid-March that the gym would close soon.

"What was communicated with me for the last 6-8 months and what I have relayed to you all has been changed," wrote gym manager Clint Colwell on behalf of Lampkins in a social media statement. "I was told that the gym would remain open for 18 months after the project breaks ground. This is not true I guess and it saddens me to be the bearer of this message."

Since opened Urban Ascent in 2011, Lampkins had a long-term lease with the city, which owns the land Urban Ascent sits on. Tom Mannschreck, CEO of Thomas Development, said he paid Lampkins for the lease, building and improvements Lampkins had made.

Mannschreck said his company "looked at it from every angle we can" and determined the late April closing date was the best option. In fact, Mannschreck said, construction had originally been slated to start in September 2017. Adare Manor's March 2018 groundbreaking bought Urban Ascent more time.

"I'd like to think they got an extra six months," Mannschreck said. "It would be nice to be able to be able to replace that amenity but we have our hands full building apartments."

Colwell and Mannschreck said much of the gym's equipment will be "salvaged and reused" before the building is demolished (or dismantled and reused, which is Mannschreck's preference) in early May.

Lampkins said he has no plans to reopen Urban Ascent elsewhere. The gym offered "top rope" rock climbing, where a climber wears a harness attached to a rope that is secured to another person, known as the belayer, on the ground.

Colwell and Lampkins said a new climbing gym called Vertical View is in the works in Meridian. Local branches of the YMCA offer some rock climbing services, though they don't compare to Urban Ascent's size. And the Wings Center also hosts indoor rock climbing in Boise, but offers mostly scheduled events for groups.

Colwell also pointed to Idaho's outdoor climbing options, as well as Asana, a Garden City bouldering gym where climbers can scale shorter walls without a harness, rope or belayer.

Urban Ascent will host a closing party from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 28, meant as a last hurrah for members and chance for newcomers to give rock climbing a try.

"There's a very strong community (at Urban Ascent). You could almost think of it as a support group in some ways," Colwell said. "Climbing has this amazing ability to cut through the extraneous stuff. You develop amazing trust on a rope."

Online, those familiar with Urban have shared an outpouring of sadness over its closing.

"Thanks to this amazing climbing gym, I have progressed further with my abilities than ever before. Every time I set foot in this place, I was greeted with a smile and encouragement that can’t be matched," wrote Jordan Meyer, a member of the Eastern Oregon University Climbing Club.

The club's members had been frequenting Urban for several months.

"People are going to survive and be fine, but it will leave a pretty big gap," Colwell said.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman