Back in 2015, we opened First Ascent Avondale with a lot of hard work, some good fortune, and the collective energy of Chicago climbers. The video below tells the story well:
Now, less than 3 years later, we are thrilled to open our fourth location right in the iconic center of Chicago: the Loop. We love all the neighborhoods that are home to First Ascent locations, but this location feels particularly special to us. The FA Founders (Jon, Joe, Dave, and I) all call Chicago our home. It’s a milestone for us to open a climbing gym in the heart of Chicago, surrounded by skyscrapers, bustling crowds, theaters, company headquarters, city offices, and the architecture that makes Chicago so unique.
Building in the Loop is not only special for us Chicagoans, it’s also a leap forward in our mission to serve and grow Chicago’s vibrant climbing community. First Ascent Block 37 will serve climbers that work or live in the city’s center, and with access to the Red and Blue Line trains in the building, the location couldn’t be better for our downtown commuting members. We also hope FA Block 37 introduces more of Chicago to the sport we love. The Loop is filled with people who spend their days strapped to their desk. First Ascent will give them access to fun, convenient exercise and a great way to meet new people and connect with old friends.
First Ascent Block 37 opens in just a few short days, and we hope you can join us for the Grand Opening Party on March 3rd! In the meantime, I’d like to show you around the facility. Pardon our dust on this virtual tour – we’re still putting the finishing touches on the space. We put everything we’ve learned from our first three locations into this design, and we can’t wait to share what we’ve built with you!
When you enter First Ascent Block 37, you’ll be greeted by our friendly staff along with this custom-designed feature wall that mimics the contour of real rock.
Lake Shore Drive
The first boulder you’ll encounter features a generous amount of slab, vert, and slightly overhanging terrain. We’ll teach classes and set climbs for new climbers on this wall, but we’ll also have a number of harder technical slab problems mixed in.
Yoga & Fitness Studios
The facility features two yoga and fitness studios, where our top-notch team of instructors will lead yoga and group fitness classes to help you supplement your climbing and explore different styles of movement.
We named this boulder the “Neighborhood Boulder” because it’s diverse, like the neighborhoods in Chicago, and there’s something for everyone on it. Visit the South Side, West Side, North Side, and Lakefront for everything from delicate slab to aggressive overhangs.
“Inception”? Allow me to explain. This boulder features blocs (a French word for boulder problem) on a block-shaped boulder in Block 37. So blocs on a block in Block. If you don’t get the name, that’s okay – you can re-watch the movie Inception, or forget all about the name and enjoy the gentle angle changes that make this block so unique.
World Cup Boulder
This boulder first appeared at the 2012 IFSC World Bouldering Championships, and Entre-Prises rebuilt it for us here. We will do our best to set world-class boulders here that live up to its namesake.
The Bean Boulder
We always wondered – could we build a climb-able version of the famous Cloud Gate sculpture (aka The Bean)? Entre-Prises took on the challenge, and we can’t be more psyched with the outcome. This boulder is a nod to the geometry of the famous Millennium Park sculpture, with colors that reflect the boulders around it as the Bean reflect its surroundings. Most importantly, it will make for some epic setting possibilities.
Featuring a two-lane campus board, scatter board, Moonboard with Bluetooth app connectivity, and hangboard stations, you’ll have everything you need to develop climbing-specific strength, endurance, and power, all with downtown Chicago views to enjoy between sets.
Any long-time climber knows that you need to add key lifts and oppositional training to your regimen to sustain your climbing and overall health. And for many people, having two memberships – one to the climbing gym and one to a fitness gym – is unsustainable. So we’re dedicating 1500 sf to state-of-the-art cardio equipment, free weights, and functional training equipment to help our members maintain full body wellness.
You’ll find about 200 code-lock lockers around FA Block 37, including a number of larger lockers in each locker room. You’ll also find showers and other amenities to help you prep for work after a morning or lunchtime climbing session, including something new for First Ascent: towel service.
We will have 15 powered workstations overlooking Randolph St. so you can send some emails in between sends or “work from home” with other members of the FAmily.
We can’t wait for you to experience this climbing gym with us. Hop on the Blue or Red Line and meet us downtown for a session soon. Let’s climb, Chicago!
Dan Bartz is co-founder and Marketing Director for First Ascent Climbing & Fitness.