Southwest going Vertical: Big indoor rock climbing gym coming to 26th and Nicollet

A Minnesota-based company plans to open one of the biggest and tallest indoor rock-climbing facilities in the country in the Whittier neighborhood of Southwest Minneapolis.

Owner Nate Postma said his company, Vertical Endeavors, has an agreement with the landlord and plans to sign a lease in the next few days for the former Ice House Studio on 26th Street and Nicollet Avenue. Postma said he plans to build a wall reaching heights of 60 feet and totaling 25,000 square feet of climbing space.

The new gym is bigger than his three existing facilities in St. Paul, Duluth and the Chicago area.  

“It will be one of the biggest and one of the tallest in the country,” he said. “Mostly, it will be one of the best. That’s what will be sweet about it.”

The 26th and Nicollet intersection is in the beginning stages of a major redevelopment. First and First LLC bought the property during the summer and the architect has confirmed that Thom Pham’s Azia Restaurant will be moving back into its old space next door to the Ice House.

Because the redevelopment just began, Postma couldn’t give an exact timeline for when he might have climbers on the wall, but he said it will likely happen late next spring or early next summer.

The facility will be available to a wide range of clientele, he said. Customers will be able to buy day passes, memberships and punch cards and host climbing parties. The facility will also have a full retail section for climbing equipment.

“Pretty much any customer of any age can come in and play on our wall,” Postma said, noting a wide selection for experts.  

Postma said Veritcal Endeavors is eyeing a site in a Twin Cities suburbs for a fifth site, but he declined to say where exactly until the deal was final. He said the Nicollet Avenue project will have priority over that one, unless he runs into any problems.

Why the Whittier neighborhood?

“That building, to be quite frank. For us, it’s all about the building because our customers are destination-oriented customers, so what’s going to be happening is we’re going to be bringing a lot of business to that area.”

Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul hosts 100,000 climbers a year, he said. The facility, which has about 18,000 squre feet of climbing space, has brought in $25 million in revenue since it opened in 1992. The Duluth and Chicago locations opened in 2001.