For our second post in our architectural series, we visited ARC, Sudbury’s premiere climbing, yoga, and fitness facility. A year’s worth of work went into transforming an auto garage into this now 7500 square foot fitness facility. Angie, ARC’s general manager and yoga instructor, took us on a tour of the space and explained the process of converting the space into the beautiful facility we see today.
A devoted group of climbing enthusiasts got together in January of last year and completed the first phase of transformation themselves—and with a little help from their friends. This was no easy task, as the existing structure needed a gutting, a new roof, two additional support beams, and new insulation. The floors were covered in car grease and required backbreaking repetitions of scrubbing and pressure-washing to undo (which was not the only dirty stuff the mechanics left behind – they also left some raunchy centerfolds pinned to the walls, but those were much easier to remove). The entirety of the car garage was converted into what now houses the lobby, bouldering wall, and yoga/fitness studio.
The extension in the back is perhaps the most visually impressive transformation—walking into the 40-foot high climbing section is breathtaking. When furnishing the expansion with climbing walls, ARC chose the world’s leading manufacturer of climbing walls, Walltopia. ARC sent the dimensions of the space to the meticulous engineers at their headquarters in Bulgaria. After planes, trains, and automobiles for the wall pieces to be brought to Sudbury, six Bulgarian Walltopia engineers worked for six weeks to put everything in place. The result is a seamless, spacious, beautiful climbing room.
The sheer height, colours, and brightness of the space are enough to make you want to get into a harness and go all “Spiderman”. To a novice like myself, the wall is a chaos of colourfully shaped holds, but to someone as experienced as general manager Angie, it’s a work of art. The designs of the holds or the grips in the walls mimic natural rock formations and are coded by colour to make climbing routes on the walls. She explained that route setting (positioning the different coloured holds) is a craft, and each route reflects the personal style of the setter.
Somewhat of a sub-culture, the climbing community in Sudbury existed much earlier than the opening of ARC. “Climbing is as much a social thing as getting good physical activity”, says Angie. Locals have always had their favourite haunts for outdoor climbing in the area (Angie’s favorites include the crag near Timberwolf Golf Course, Bethel Lake, and Mackynen boulder), but Sudbury was long overdue for a learning centre like ARC. Lunch groups, families, school groups, and summer camps now have the opportunity to learn to climb in a great community environment (and even get some yoga or fitness classes in, too).
The challenge of the renovation seems to have paid off—Angie says she loves seeing people (especially the kiddos) walk into the extension space and “whoa” for a minute. Another perk is celebrating the accomplishments of regulars when they finally master that challenging route they set. Converting a greasy garage into a Sudbury fitness hub certainly took a lot of work, but ARC is now a huge asset to the community at large. Here’s to many more years of rappelling, bouldering, and climbing.
*Written by Franny Anderson, who is a completing a six-week internship during the month of June, 2015 with Studio123
Visit arcclimbing.ca for more information.