Taking advantage of an industry “on fire,” local residents Jake and Kim Crine are opening Übergrippen to climbing enthusiasts and novices in June. The indoor facility opens to members in early June and will welcome the general public on June 17. A grand opening celebration event will be held July 7–8.
The idea to build a climbing facility first dawned on the Crines a few years ago when, after seeing only very young children in the neighborhood, they saw a group of high school kids in Central Park. They realized a new demographic cohort would soon be looking for things to do. From a business perspective, they knew indoor climbing has seen tremendous growth since its start in the 1980s—and Colorado has a high per capita ratio of climbers. With the closest full-service gyms eight and 12 miles away (Movement in central Denver and Rock’n & Jam’n in Thornton), the Crines felt confident in the depth of the northeast Denver market.
Enriching the community:
But first, an explanation about that term—“crag.” Crine says he resists calling Übergrippen a gym because climbing is an activity that is as much about spending time with friends and family as it is a form of fitness and exercise. Besides, he says, climbers go to crags in the outdoors so why not indoors as well? As to the business name, Crine chose a climbing term that signifies the “intense feeling of relief” when finding a good handhold after the most difficult or “crux” move on a climb.
The location of the 21,000-square-foot climbing crag, just northwest of the Montview and Central Park boulevards, is symbolic to the Crines who want to avoid a “stigma” of being perceived as a Stapleton-only facility. “We want to be accessible to greater northeast Denver. Our whole focus is to serve the community,” said Jake Crine. He pointed to the Stanley Marketplace as a model and said, “We want to enrich the neighborhood just as Stanley developer Mark Shaker is doing at his development.”
To that end, Übergrippen will offer a number of ancillary services augmenting the core activity of roped climbing and bouldering: yoga and fitness classes, a youth “climbing academy,” cardio and free weight areas, summer camps, climbing instruction, a retail shop, multi-purpose room, and an outdoor area featuring a patio, lawn and 10-foot-high synthetic boulder. A café and taproom are planned. The space and utilities are complete but the Crines are still deciding whether to operate that space themselves or to lease it out. They view climbing as a social activity and look forward to friends and new acquaintances hanging out at the café after workouts.
The people behind the business:
The Crines are 10-year Stapleton residents who have recently quit their fulltime jobs to take on this new venture. Jake is a mechanical engineer with 15 years’ experience in the aerospace industry, most recently as mechanical systems lead for Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser project. He left Sierra Nevada in February although he still does consulting work. Kim is a pharmacist and spent 10 years at the Stapleton Walgreens. The Crines have three children, all boys, ranging in age from 6 to 15.
For the Crines, Übergrippen is obviously a labor of love. Growing up in Albuquerque, Jake was not big into team sports but found climbing a great way to build friendships while experiencing the great outdoors. He and Kim developed their relationship on a climbing trip to Hueco Tanks in Texas while they were both students at CSU. While they both loved to climb, the responsibilities of their jobs and parenting made climbing inaccessible to them for a prolonged period. Now, with Übergrippen, they get to marry their personal and business interests.
What Übergrippen offers climbers:
At its core, Übergrippen is all about climbing. The walls exceed 40 feet in height and allow up to 75 “lanes” or rope stations providing access to routes of varying degrees of difficulty. Climbers without partners will be able to take advantage of 10 “auto belays,” self-regulating magnetic braking devices that gently lower climbers to the floor after completing a route. Climbers can also work out on a 17-foot-tall bouldering wall. A separate family-friendly area provides 30-foot-tall walls for top rope climbing and a kids’ boulder with a slide.
The business plan:
Planning for the project began two and a half years ago and groundbreaking took place last August. It’s a major undertaking at around $5 million to complete, with an additional $500,000 for operating capital. The startup is financing the project with an SBA loan and $1.3 million from private investment. They have hired nine staff so far and anticipate 20–25 employees by opening day. They are excited with the talent they’ve hired, especially the coaches and route setters who are coming in from across the country.
They have maintained a local focus on the project team, citing Stapleton residents including the architect (Brian Beckler of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative) and attorney (Chris Jensen), and even their graphic designer (Nancy Maysmith) as examples. Even their HVAC designer (Kim’s sister) and “IT guy” are also local area residents.
They did choose a Utah firm, Vertical Solutions, for the wall construction, preferring their use of natural wood (birch) and color schemes that create a dramatic setting for the ground-level, open climbing hall.Crine says the building aesthetics are “ridiculously” good. He points to other features such as large windows, mountain views, and an overhead door that will make Übergrippen a comfortable place to climb or just work out. The evaporative cooling system will ensure good air quality by avoiding the recirculation of chalk dust that climbers use to improve the grip on the plastic holds.
Übergrippen is located at 8610 E. 21st Ave. The site has 75 vehicle parking spaces as well as bicycle (and skateboard) parking. The “crag” hours will be 6am–10pm Mon. through Fri., 8am–8pm on Sat. and 8am–6pm on Sun.
Guests will be able to purchase day passes for $20 ($16 for children) or buy reduced-price punch passes. Monthly memberships are also available and include unlimited climbing, yoga and use of fitness facilities as well as member discounts on all programs. Guests can rent all the required equipment or bring their own. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.