Vancouver’s Amazing Bouldering Gym
It is hard to believe that there was a time when Vancouver climbers had only one place to pursue what they loved. Hard to believe, but as I learned, it was easy to understand.
On March 22, 2012, I was thr illed to finally be standing at the end of a long and arduous journey, and also at the beginning of a new and exciting one. At 11:35 a.m., I walked out of city hall, holding in my hand the precious and hard won occupancy per mit and business license for The Hive Bouldering Gym. It is impossible to descr ibe the feeling of putting the final nail into a four-year project as I hung up the framed certificate, and to be honest, I think I cr ied a little. Finally, after years of stress, frustration, city politics, planning, financing and construction, I was proud to announce that The Hive was alive.
Moments later, after a post on Facebook, a frantic dash to make sure the staff we had on hand were prepared, and one final check of our brand new facility, we sat back and waited. We had finally built it.Would they come? It didn’t take long, a minute or two. It seemed they must have been waiting. Suddenly, a bike sailed between our gates and into the parking lot, a r ider pulled up to the bike racks. Next, a car swung up the dr ive, sliding into a fresh parking space. And then it really began. We opened our doors on a spr ing morning, and were blessed to find they never really shut. The people, they just kept coming.
Among them were the fr iendly and familiar faces from Vancouver’s existing climbing community-folks we’d seen at the other climbing spots, the crags, the boulders, belay ledges on the Chief and throughout its many parking lots. They all came streaming in, almost without stop, and before we knew it, it was 11 p.m. and we found ourselves shutting the doors, taking a deep breath, cleaning up the chalk, and with amazing success, our first day drew to a close.
It has now been a year and a half, and things have only picked up. When I began researching this project in 2008, I had imagined that Vancouver needed a second rope gym. After finding some initial funding, I began a long search for a building, but where do you find a 10- metre tall space, with ample parking, the r ight zoning, a good location and the r ight pr ice. I realized why there was only one climbing gym in Vancouver – there simply wasn’t a building in which to put one. Sitting at a fr iend’s place, shar ing my frustrations with the search for this imaginary beast over a cold beverage, it struck like lightning – a boulder ing gym. That was the answer. Cut the height in half and all of a sudden buildings started popping up. It won’t be that hard to find – or so I thought.
There was one, a seven-metre open space, clear to the ceiling, limited renovation, decent location, great price, but was going to be demolished in three years, so it would not work. Another potential space was a 10 metres high, close to transit, lots of parking building with a decent price, but it had the wrong zoning. Time after time something didn’t fit until finally I found one. The perfect place: close to transit, a heritage building, parking, right zoning, right price, we had found it. I should have known better, we lost it to a cash offer from someone else. We had been “sniffing” at it for six months. Half a year of planning, repeated discussions with the city, architectural drawings, climbing wall designs, a fair bit of capital, and the dreams of a new climbing community all vanished in the blink of an eye; strangely enough on the very day we received the final go ahead from the planning department at Vancouver City Hall.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and I didn’t think it would take over two and a half years to find a building, but after a tremendous letdown, we found one. It was a big and vacant refrigeration facility: 10,000 square feet of six-metre foot ceilings, concrete tiltup, decent price, right zoning, a blank inner canvas, and most importantly a large parking lot.When I walked through the doors I knew immediately, it was going to be The Hive.