What was once a dream and then a three-dimensional model in a computer is now a three-dimensional shell that will encase First Ascent Climbing Gym (3500 N. Spaulding Ave).
On Friday, Feb. 20, 48 40-foot concrete panels were set into place by construction crews and a giant crane; these panels now frame what will be the gym’s interior.
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With a completion date still several months away—and yet to be determined due to weather considerations—this marks a crucial step in a construction process that to this point has been mainly site clean-up, digging and the laying of foundation.
To supplement LoganSquarist photographer Nick Biscardi’s images, First Ascent’s Instagram account shows the latest image from this phase of construction.
Soon Logan Square and the Chicago climbing community will have 7,000 square feet of bouldering surface and 25,000 square feet of top-rope and lead climbing surface as tall as 60 feet to climb. A fitness training area with cardio machines and weight lifting equipment, as well as a space for yoga and movement classes, will give non-climbers cause to consider First Ascent as a destination to stay in shape.
Dan Bartz, First Ascent Gym’s Operations Director, took time to answer a few questions on the recent developments of his team’s project and the near future of climbing in Chicago.
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Q: Now that the panels are in, what are the next crucial steps in construction?
Bartz: Next, the steel sub-structure of the building goes up, followed by the roof. That’s when things start to get really interesting.
Q: Now that your team is constructing a bouldering gym in Uptown, what would you say to residents of Uptown that would get them to come to First Ascent in Logan Square?
Bartz: The two facilities will be very different, so each will have its own scene. The Logan Square facility will have some of the tallest indoor climbing in the country, so boulderers in Uptown will visit to rope up and work on their endurance—or boulder on some fresh terrain up on the mezzanine.
Q: Why now? Why is Chicago’s climbing scene—between the construction of First Ascent’s gym, Brooklyn Boulders’ opening, the construction of the outdoor climbing structure at Maggie Daley Park, etc.—expanding seemingly overnight?
Bartz: When people try climbing, they get hooked—it’s a fun, social way to exercise that keeps you coming back for more. That natural “click” has been growing the Chicago climbing community organically for decades, and the city reached a critical mass of climbers who were ready for climbing terrain that rivals what is being built in other cities across the world.
Specific to First Ascent: The First Ascent partners are all climbers, and we felt the need here first-hand—we know a huge community of people who want a place to climb, train, and meet new people, and we set out to give Chicagoans an urban climbing experience that mirrors the world class city we live in. We are stoked to be a part of the climbing Renaisssance Chicago climbers have been waiting for.
Q: Next winter, when the Polar Vortex comes back, any plans on setting up outdoor ice-climbing routes at the facility?
Bartz: None yet—but sweet idea!