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VOL. 11 | NO. 8 | Saturday, February 24, 2018

High Point Climbing Takes Foothold in East Memphis

K. Denise Jennings

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By the end of the year, a parking lot just off Walnut Grove Road and North Humphreys Boulevard will be replaced with an outdoor climbing wall – one of the signature design elements of High Point Climbing and Fitness, which just began construction of its first ground-up facility in Memphis.

The 32,000-square-foot gym is being built east of Christian Brothers High School on a 2.7-acre, wedge-shaped tract of land at 21 N. Humphreys Blvd., which the company purchased for $1.9 million in August from BIC H Partnership, a Boyle Investment Co. subsidiary.

While the lot posed some design challenges, it is a prime location adjacent to Shelby Farms Park, the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River, all anchors of the growing outdoors community in Memphis of which High Point Memphis wants to be a part.

Chattanooga-based High Point Climbing and Fitness is expanding into Memphis with a 32,000-square-foot gym under construction on Humphreys Boulevard near Walnut Grove. (Walltopia)

“It’s the gateway to the outdoors in Memphis,” said John Wiygul, founder and co-owner of Chattanooga-based High Point Climbing LLC.

Wiygul and partner John O’Brien opened their first High Point Climbing and Fitness in downtown Chattanooga in 2013, followed by a second Chattanooga location, then a third in Birmingham, Alabama.

The pair had planned to open their first gym in Memphis, but other opportunities presented themselves in urban areas transforming existing structures. Five years later, having garnered accolades such as being touted as “the coolest gym in America” by Climbing Magazine, the partners are ready to circle back to their original plan.

Rock climbing is growing as a sport and will be featured in the Olympics for the first time in 2020. Forty-three new commercial gyms opened in 2017, representing a 10 percent growth in the industry and doubling the number of gyms opened in 2016, according to Climbing Business Journal’s “Gyms and Trends” report.

Memphis-based Fisher Arnold served as land development consultants and engineers for High Point’s Memphis gym, handling the land development and city approval process.

“The owners wanted to be close to Shelby Farms, said Michael Rogers, director of land development at Fisher Arnold. “It’s an accessible location throughout the city, close to the interstate and Walnut Grove. It’s just a neat project to be involved with.”

To bring the project down in scale, the bottom of the facility will be masonry with a vegetative screen, and the 40-foot outdoor climbing wall will start from the second story facing Shelby Farms, said Patrick Ryan with Chattanooga-based PV Design Inc., the lead architect for the project.

Chattanooga-based High Point Climbing and Fitness is expanding into Memphis with a 32,000-square-foot gym under construction on Humphreys Boulevard near Walnut Grove. (Walltopia)

“It’s the biggest (climbing gym) they’ve done and the biggest one in the state,” Ryan said. “It’s also the first one we’ve done from scratch. We’re really happy with what we’ve designed.”

Memphis-based EMJ Special Projects has been hired to do the build-out of the climbing gym and will use local subcontractors. The entire project will cost between $9 million and $10 million, Wiygul said.

Inside, climbers will have access to 52 feet of vertical climbing with different wall angles, designs and colors specific to the Memphis gym. High Point Memphis also will feature a kids zone, a bouldering zone, yoga and weights, and party rooms that can be rented for special events.

Wiygul said he expects to hire 30 to 40 employees for the Memphis gym and to have about 1,000 members within the first year.

High Point Climbing in Chattanooga hosts local and regional competitions, and the Birmingham gym has, for the past two years, hosted one of the four USA Climbing National Cup Series, which offers a purse of $10,000.

Wiygul expects the Memphis gym, as High Point’s largest to date, to host similar events, drawing more outdoor enthusiasts to the area and hopefully having a positive economic impact on the community.

“We plan to have community events with food trucks and pint nights to support local charities,” Wiygul said. “I am really excited about opening in Memphis. I think it will be a great addition to the city, and I look forward to partnering with local businesses and being part of the community.

PROPERTY SALES 97 418 8,253
MORTGAGES 112 508 9,293
BUILDING PERMITS 194 1,059 18,126
BANKRUPTCIES 46 208 5,367