Something new is coming to The Bench. Two years in the making, Boise is finally getting a centrally located rock climbing gym – Commons Climbing Gym. I sat down with part-owner and Commons’ spokesperson, Clint Colwell to discuss how the dream has become a reality.

The Build

It all started when the city bought Urban Ascent to use as parking lot space for new apartment buildings. “When Urban Ascent closed over 650 climbing gym members and 14 employees were left without a community,” Clint says. Over time, several previous members and former employees banded together to take action towards restoring that lost community. The Commons Climbing Gym is now owned by eight people dedicated to fostering education and relationship building in the climbing community.

“We call it The Commons because we feel like that name embodies what we stand for and why we are here. Our ownership is big. People are willing to put down their own money – not independently wealthy people – to combine forces to do something greater than ourselves,” Clint says. “Not a single one of us could do this one our own. All of the owners came from the Urban Ascent community. Three of us worked there and everyone else climbed there.” Over the course of construction, Clint says an estimated quarter-million dollars has been saved by the amount of labor that the ownership team has put into physically building the new gym.

From an idea to the grand opening, The Commons Climbing Gym was built in just under two years. Centrally located at 4795 W. Emerald Street, within a mile of Urban Ascent’s location, the owners wanted to make sure that the new gym is accessible to the original community they hope to restore, as well as to newcomers. “It’s important for us to keep that Urban community together. We want you to be able to walk and bike here.” Clint stated.

“Climbing is at the heart of it for all of us, but wrapped up in climbing are the people who climb.”

On his own involvement in this project, he said, “On a personal level it’s really important to me that I live deliberately. There is a risk but you can do things to mitigate that. Climbing gives purpose and direction to my life. The dream is that someday I can climb in a gym with people I love and have the ability to have a lifestyle that means so much to me. Climbing is at the heart of it for all of us, but wrapped up in climbing are the people who climb. We are all in. We are The Commons so that we can bring this to the public. I feel honored to be a part of this project.”

The Experience

The 12,300 square foot gym offers climbing walls, workout and training space, and studio areas. With over 14,000 square feet of climbing space, The Commons has something for any level of experience climber. From slab to 60-degree overhangs, the 45 ft tall climbing walls feature auto belays, top rope, lead climbing, and over 60 different routes. There is also a 13.5 ft tall bouldering wall. At capacity, the walls can hold anywhere from 45- 60 climbers at a time.

The workout and training space offers a moon board, a scatter board, fingerboards, campus boards, and a tread wall to increase your climbing skills. The studio space will house yoga classes and various dance classes, including a swing dance class taught by Clint himself.

When people experience The Commons, Clint says, “We want to continue the legacy of friendly customer service and solid technical climbing knowledge. Our team has a high level of training not seen in most climbing gyms.” He continues, “The goal is that any person can come in and climb. One of our biggest supporters is a woman who started climbing at 62 years old. She’s a full-on climber now. Literally anybody from any background can walk in. We can easily support and include anyone in the realm of interest. From beginner to pro there will be something to challenge you here.”

“From beginner to pro there will be something to challenge you here.”

He also emphasized, “Come check us out even if you have technical climbing questions. There is a real need for climbing skills education and it’s much better to ask than finding out by almost dying. We are an educational resource and are happy to provide qualified help.”

 Why Rock Climbing?

Clint says he sees the rock climbing community growing for a number of reasons. People are drawn to the activity for both the physical and mental rewards that it brings. “Climbing for fitness and fun is growing rapidly in popularity due to increasing accessibility, but there’s a social aspect as well. It is so easy to make great friends at the gym because you’re doing an activity that involves a lot of trust.”

He says that building a “belaytionship” with someone cuts through all the “junk” and immediately places your life in someone’s hands. “It’s a unique way to meet people and build a trusting relationship from the start. You feel grounded in those relationships immediately and you get to meet them doing something you both love.”

Clint also emphasized that the climbing culture focuses more on internal competition more than external. “You can walk up to the best climber in the gym and 99 percent of the time that person is going to be fantastic and take time to talk to you and teach you new skills.”

Another strong component of climbing is being outside and experiencing the world in a different way. “When you’re climbing it’s you and the rock you’re interacting with.” He says. “You’re solving a puzzle physically and mentally and getting an extremely good workout.”

Clint suggests that new climbers give the activity one month of trial, coming to the gym two to three times a week. He says, “It’s so powerful to see the mental, physical, and emotional transformations that people undergo in just one month.”

Additional Information

The Commons is currently pre-selling memberships. Check their website at https://www.commonsclimbing.com/ for more info. The grand opening is projected to be in February.

The Commons highly recommends checking out and supporting the local Boise Climbers Alliance, a local non-profit.

Clint would like to note that The Commons wouldn’t be possible without the rallying support of people who believe in the mission and community that The Commons will provide to Boise. In particular, he would like to thank Idaho First Bank and the customer service they have provided throughout the entire process.

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