Climb So iLL rappels onto the scene in Lafayette Square.
St. Louis’ latest and greatest rock climbing gym opened in late March in Lafayette Square’s Historic City Hospital Power Plant, part of an $8 million renovation. With 10,000 square feet of climbing terrain, the new gym will allow climbers to scale walls up to 55 feet tall, accommodating a wide range of skill levels.
David and Daniel Chancellor opened the gym with business partner and longtime friend Ian Anderson (all hailing from Southern Illinois) with the help of a $30,000 grant from a second-place finish in the St. Louis Regional Business Plan Competition in 2010. The Chancellors originally got into the climbing business when they founded a company that designs and manufactures uniquely-shaped climbing holds, So iLL Holds, which are now used in gyms around the world. The decision to take it to the next level and build a climbing gym of their own is the fruition of a longtime dream. The Chancellors say that St. Louis, the community that has provided so much support along the way, was the natural choice for a location.
The creativity that brought the Chancellors success in So iLL Holds is easily evident in the new gym, which features vast climbing walls shaped like an eye, elephant and tulip. They designed the space with the help of local architecture firm UIC+CDO, embracing the historic building’s natural design and treating the walls as functional art rather than mimicking outdoor climbing as many facilities do.
Beyond simply providing a unique place for people to climb, Chancellor says he aims to build a community around the gym. A pro shop sells the necessary gear for budding and established enthusiasts, and Fitness Labs provide interactive workout sessions that combine yoga, climbing and cross-training.
Soon to move into the building with Climb So iLL are two restaurants, one perched above the climbing gym with a view of Downtown—and the climbers below. The other, rumor has it, will be located above that and feature VIP seating inside the old smokestack.
Photo credit: Lily Liu