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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 12:21 am | Fair 45º


SLO Op Climbing Club Gearing Up to Open Gym in Santa Maria

A fundraising campaign is under way to finance 'The Pad,' slated to go in at an existing business park on A Street

A climbing club that maintains a popular gym for bouldering enthusiasts in San Luis Obispo has announced plans to open a similar facility in Santa Maria.

The board for SLO Op Climbing, based at 289 Prado Road in San Luis Obispo, last week announced plans to open a gym, to be called “The Pad,” in an existing business park on A Street in southwest Santa Maria.

“I’ve been pushing it for quite awhile,” SLO Op Executive Director Kristin Horowitz said.

A former instructor at Allan Hancock College, she said she became familiar with the area and the need for recreation opportunities for young professionals and families.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” she added.

She estimated that about 15 percent of the gym’s membership lives in Nipomo, Lompoc and Santa Maria.

“SLO Op has grown by leaps and bounds, and we are proud of our service to the community,” officials said on the SLO Op website. “Many northern Santa Barbara County residents are making the trek to the gym, and there is a large population that has not had the benefit of the kind of services and facilities that SLO Op maintains. By bringing 'The Pad' to Santa Maria, we hope to give a new demographic (consisting of families and young professionals) the opportunity to pursue a healthy pastime and be a part of a cohesive community in an area with very few competing options.”

Horowitz met with the gym’s future neighbors and said they reacted positively to the facility and said they would join.  

The climbers created a tight-knit community she is excited to see develop in Santa Maria. They hope to open in February, assuming permits, engineering and financing come together.

The new gym needs about $300,000 to get built and operate for three months while getting established, but the group is one-third of the way toward the goal so far, according to fundraising monitor on the SLO Op website.

The nonprofit group estimates the Santa Maria site would need 459 members to break even, a number club leaders expect to reach within five months of opening.

SLO Op’s board, staff and crew will oversee the project, but plan to develop a local staff and volunteer corps.

The facility would be open initially from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., but other options are being considered.

The new location, with approximately 10,000 square feet, will allow the gym to host more corporate and other events.

“We would ideally provide services like a workout room, kids programs, afterschool programs, camps, team building, yoga and — yes — birthday parties at this new facility over time, building in stages as we did with SLO Op,” officials said.

In 2002, SLO Op started in a storage unit with a loose-knit group of climbers. But when the lease ended they sought another location, using volunteers to construct a steel-framed building and money loaned from interested climbers.

They filed as an LLC and a nonprofit, reportedly becoming the nation’s first nonprofit bouldering gym.

Another move took the gym into a larger facility that boasts approximately 3,500 square feet of bouldering with top outs, a crack machine, slackline, and hangboard. 

The gym is available to members, but people also can purchase one-day passes.

The business model used to launch SLO Op Climbing is mentioned in a book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future.

SLO Op officials say the Central Coast concept has spawned a huge movement toward smaller co-op bouldering gyms all over the world — “and we couldn’t be more honored.”

“We get contacted from people all over the country to emulate what we’re doing,” Horowitz added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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