Words and photos by Joe Kopek
Ozark Climbing Gym
(An intimate gym with a big heart)
Located just down field of the Springdale Municipal Airport in an ordinary industrial building lies a climbing gym at the heart of Arkansas climbing. While many climbers have come and gone since it first opened its doors, Ozark Climbing Gym has remained. I’ve been lucky enough to know the owners, Jason and Bridgette Groves, since they took over operations in 2013 and they took the time out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions. Hopefully this Q and A will let you peek into the goings-on at the gym and encourage you to meet some new people or run into old friends.
How long has Ozark Climbing Gym been a part of the climbing community?
Jason- The gym has been around in some form or another since late '06/early '07. We've had the gym since October 2013.
Over the years, how have you seen the climbing community grow in Northwest Arkansas?
Jason- Since we're so close to the University of Arkansas we get a new student population moving through with measured regularity. But we also see plenty of young adults separate from the University just getting into the sport for the first time. My favorite group, though, are the folks coming back to climbing after some period of time away. It's always cool to see those folks getting back into it.
What's new at the Gym?
Jason- New sets! We reset a section of the gym every week so there's always something new. We also just converted a decent sized chunk of wall into an old school spray wall. We're pretty stoked on it as a teaching and training tool, but it's also great for warming up or just running laps of whatever difficulty you desire. Still haven't seen a mega game of Add-on on it yet but maybe that's coming.
Where does youth climbing fit into Arkansas climbing?
Jason- Youth climbers are just like anyone else. They can be a brand new 16 year old climber or they can be 10 year old V7 crushers (true story) or anything in between. Some are stoked to climb outside and some prefer the simplicity of plastic. The only big difference is that when they complain about something being too reach-y they're more likely to be making a valid point than we are!
How long has the gym been coaching kids and what's the most exciting thing about teaching the future of climbing?
Jason- We've had a competition youth team for about 2 and half years and we've just spun up a Junior Team and Climbing Club. The competition team is focused on just that, climbing competitions, ultimately trying to reach the National level. The Junior Team is for youth climbers who want to learn to climb and work at it regularly but aren't interested in competing. Climbing Club is more just supervised fun climbing time. The exciting bit really is seeing new people absolutely stoked on climbing. The kids work so hard and seeing them grow and succeed at those things they work on is super rewarding.
How long have climbing competitions been held at the gym and who is going to win the next dyno comp?
Jason- We've held competitions since April 2014 and kept a twice-a-year clip ever since. As for who's going to win the next dyno comp you'll have to show up to find out. April 20th is our next April Pulls Day.
What does the future look like for the climbing community in your opinion?
Jason- Ooh. If I were any good at all at predicting the future I'd probably do something else professionally! Well, probably not - the coaching thing is too much fun. I reckon we're going to continue to see more and more people introduced to climbing via gyms rather than rock. Because gyms are so welcoming and approachable we're hopefully going to see a broadening of the base of climbers. That's exciting to me. I know a lot of people like the perceived exclusivity of climbing but I'm into the growth of the sport. So long as we can educate people along the way I think we can really see development of ideas in the broader climbing community. I don't know man, that seems sweet to me!