Edgeworks Climbing Gym opens in Tacoma

Tod Bloxham likes the view from the top.

Especially from the top of a cliff or a wall. Bloxham is founder and president of Edgeworks Climbing Gym – the first such facility in Tacoma – which opened Wednesday.

With several other cities around Puget Sound home to indoor climbing gyms, Bloxham said he decided three years ago to fill the niche in Tacoma.
“I’ve been working on it ever since,” he said.

Edgeworks Climbing Gym co-founders include friends Jeff Marcus and Eric Halgren, as well as local investors. Last year was spent raising money, he said, while construction was the main focus this year.

But this has been a labor of love for Bloxham. A climber since 1988, he traces his passion for the activity to a fondness for the outdoors, specifically backpacking, which includes its share of scrambling up and scaling various hills, mounds and peaks. “Now I’ve made a career out of it,” he said.

Located near the Tacoma Narrows district and within close proximity of Interstate 5, Highway 16 and the intersection of 6th Street and Pearl Street, Bloxham and his associates hope Edgeworks Climbing Gym will come to be seen as the South Sound’s destination for indoor climbing, youth and adult events and competitions and alternative fitness.

“Rock climbing is fairly popular,” Bloxham observed.

According to him, about 6 million people in America went rock climbing at least once in 2001. It is estimated there are over 600 indoor rock climbing gyms in the country, he said, with about two-thirds of them having opened in the last few years.

Bloxham described climbing as an activity that requires coordination, not necessarily brute upper body strength. (Although if Bloxham’s grip is any indication, climbing will help make you stronger.)

“It’s a whole body experience,” he said. “Everything is pretty well balanced throughout your body when you’re climbing.”

And there’s plenty to climb – for both veterans and novices alike – at the 10,000-square-foot facility.

Edgeworks Climbing Gym consists of 6,000 square feet dedicated to top-rope and lead climbing, 3,500 square feet dedicated to bouldering, a 25-foot tall freestanding pillar with a bouldering archway, over 40 top-rope and lead climbing stations and 35-foot lead routes.

Included in 9,500 square feet of climbing is a distinct feature not found anywhere else on the west coast: a “top-out” bouldering rock.

People can climb to the top of a 12-foot bouldering wall and walk along the top to the second-story lounge, where they can enjoy the entire gym from a unique bird’s eye view.

The walls, made to resemble actual cliffs, are state-of-the-art structures made of steel, plywood and concrete.

Dotting the simulated cliffs are plastic holds that are bolted to the surface. Each route is marked with a rating appropriate to the level of difficulty.
The holds can be stripped and reset on the wall, Bloxham explained, meaning routes can be changed on a regular basis. “It’s not the same all the time,” he said.

Safety, of course, is a top concern at Edgworks Climbing Gym. Several thick mats are situated below some walls, and the floor is covered with pea gravel – 10 dump truck loads, according to Bloxham – to help prevent injuries.

Additionally the gym has a viewing area with party facilities, a 500-square-foot fitness studio offering yoga and pilates and a conference room for group meetings, events and presentations. Parking is free.

A day pass at Edgeworks Climbing Gym costs $14, Bloxham said, and memberships are available as well.

“It’s been pretty good,” he said of opening day business. “We’ve been taking memberships all day.”

Edgeworks Climbing Gym currently has five employees, as well as “lots of volunteers,” according to Bloxham. In the future, he hopes to grow the number of employees to between 15 and 20.

“Everybody has fun,” he said of his new business venture. “Everybody makes money.”

It’s good to be on top.

Edgeworks Climbing Gym
in Tacoma at a glance

What: Edgeworks Climbing Gym

Where: 6102 North 9th St., Tacoma

When: Opened Sept. 15

Phone: 253/564-4899

Website: www.edgeworks-climbing.com