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New gym to elevate climbing scene
by Staff Report
Sunday, March 31, 2013    |   
High Point Climbing and Fitness is constructing an outdoor rock wall where the Bijou Theatre once stood.
High Point Climbing and Fitness is constructing an outdoor rock wall where the Bijou Theatre once stood.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In case the Chattanooga area didn’t offer enough rocks to climb, you should have another 55 feet to scale this summer.

From the ground to the tip of a six-story parking garage on a building at Third and Broad streets, a business called High Point Climbing and Fitness is constructing an outdoor rock wall — the most obvious piece in a planned $4 million renovation where the Bijou Theatre once stood.

The wall is a perfect fit for Chattanooga. Just two years ago, Outside Magazine’s readers voted the city their favorite destination.

“This will take Chattanooga’s reputation as a great place for climbing and elevate it to the next level,” says Kim White, the president and CEO of River City Co., which is renovating the building. “The demand for this is huge.”

John O’Brien Jr., a co-owner of High Point Climbing, says the wall will be made of perforated steel, fiberglass or a material that is similar to cement. Basically, he says, the wall is supposed to look like real rocks so people downtown will enjoy looking at it.

The outdoor wall isn’t the only new part of the 16,000-square-foot space, which has been renamed The Block. On the ground floor, customers will be able to shop the fifth location of Rock/Creek Outfitters. Dawson Wheeler, the store’s owner, says his business made a “six-figure investment” in the shop and will sell climbing clothes and gear.

Already, Chattanooga has two other climbing gyms: Urban Rocks Gym off Amnicola Highway and the Tennessee Bouldering Authority in St. Elmo.

“Outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the city,” Wheeler says.

In addition to the outdoor wall, High Point Climbing is constructing an indoor wall that will take up about 16,500 square feet. The building will have locker rooms and showers, so Chattanooga office workers can scale a couple of fake rocks and shed some pounds while on breaks during the day.