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San Diego, California has no shortage of climbing gyms, but for the city, the upcoming Asylum rock gym will be the first of its kind: entirely outdoors.
The 2,500-square-foot facility will allow climbers to project their routes year-round under the balmy Southern California sun. Facilities will include a 15-foot freestanding boulder holding approximately 40 problems, as well as a Grasshopper board, campus board, free weights, and other fitness gear.
26-year-old Jordan Romig, Asylum’s founder, is a former comp climber who last competed on the IFSC Open Circuit in 2017. “I’ve been looking at opening a gym for a few years,” he told Gym Climber over the phone. “Everything came together last year, right before COVID hit,” he said. “I wanted to have a lot of outdoor [offerings] anyway because San Diego’s such a good spot for it with the weather.” After the coronavirus pandemic came into full swing, however, Romig modified the idea to make the gym entirely outside.
“The whole outdoor concept was really catalyzed by COVID-19,” he said. Because of the unique outdoor setup, no matter what level of lockdown California returns to with the Delta variant’s rise, outdoor recreation will always be allowed and the Asylum gym will remain operating.
While San Diego is known worldwide for its temperate climate, making it perhaps the best city in the world for an all-outdoor climbing gym, Romig plans to cover the boulder with tarps during San Diego’s occasional rainy weather.
Although the gym will only house the single boulder and no roped routes, Romig plans a robust setting routine, with the entirety of the boulder refreshed on a two-week cycle. He plans to be setting four days per week, with each of the four walls stripped and reset every two days. “At first I want to set a mix of problems V0 to V8, then put up a couple of hard things, and see what sort of people come in, and take it from there,” he said.
In addition to climbing, Romig plans for Asylum to have a vibrant social scene. The top of the boulder is configured to house a DJ booth, and he plans to have live music at least once per week. “I want it to be a hangout and event space, too,” he said.
Asylum’s open-air lot is fenced in on three sides, and Romig is installing a modified shipping container on the fourth side to act as an entrance and pro shop. Local cold brew coffee and other snacks and gear will be available in the pro shop, but food trucks and breweries will also be on-site from time to time.
As San Diego’s southernmost gym and the most centrally located to the downtown area, Romig hopes Asylum will bring in climbers from outlying southern neighborhoods like Chula Vista and Barrio Logan. He added that “[Asylum] could be some people’s standalone gym, but I also want it to be auxiliary to other gyms. My favorite thing about Tokyo [Japan] is there are a few really rad gyms and people go to all of them, you get the best of everything there. That’s what I want to foster here… a cohesive climbing community where people could check out Asylum for a DJ night, then head over to Mesa (Rim) and hop on rope routes.”
As for the unique name, Asylum, its inspiration comes from Romig’s past as a comp climber. “Given my competition history growing up, there’s a dual meaning to that word,” he said. “The first half is kind of dark and lends itself to some dark marketing. Like, if you’re really into [climbing], you lose yourself to the sport, and you need asylum. But also, climbing was my outlet for everything growing up. It was a place to go, to have my space, and be safe, so it was kind of an asylum for me in that way, like a refuge.”
Memberships at Asylum will cost $60 per month, with day passes at $20. Premium memberships ($80/month) are also available and will include four guest passes per month. Standard and premium members will receive 10% and 15% off in the pro shop, respectively.
For interested parties, Romig is still accepting investors, with packages ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and including a variety of benefits, such as lifetime memberships and a handful of gear and merch.
Asylum will be located at 46 19th St, San Diego, CA 92102. Romig hopes to open the gym sometime in October or November of this year.