After nearly 21 years of serving the community, June Ray and Maryk Hladik, owners of the Gravity Climbing Centre, received their eviction notice.
Just two weeks ago, they were told the building had been sold to a company wanting to turn the area into office spaces and that they were required to leave by April 2012.
“It was never made 100 per cent clear to us the building was for sale,” said Ray. “We asked the owner back in September when I heard a rumor that he was possibly looking to sell it… and he said no, there was nothing solid it was just something he was thinking about. And then six weeks later he came in and said the building was sold and that we were being evicted — that was pretty shocking to us.”
Hladik said if they had learned of the owner’s intent to sell, they could have been more prepared to relocate their climbing centre, but with such late notice they don’t have the means to do so.
“A facility like this needs a year of planning minimum to move it, to find a high tall building, to plan budgets… to keep the gym in its current location, we were okay just to keep the doors open,” said Hladik, adding that they’ve been running the climbing centre with no profit for a long time “just because we love it.”
“If this came up a year in advance we would probably have opportunity to re-budget… we were just not prepared for that… It’s been 20 years since we opened, so it’s going to be different for sure,” he said.
Since the centre opened in 1991, it has had a significant influence on the climbing scene in the area.
“There was hardly any climbers here, there wasn’t even a single climbing store and there was very little outdoor climbing at that time,” said Hladik.
“The climbing gym helped generate interest in the sport… as a guiding company we were also providing the outdoor climbing programs and we established the majority of the outdoor climbs around Nelson for the last 20 years.”
As a result, climbers who have gone though the Gravity Climbing Centre have competed in Beijing for world climbing competitions, been inspired to become guides and a few are now sponsored climbers doing some of the world’s most difficult routes.
Hladik said there are also those who were at one time in the junior program as ten year olds and today they take their own ten year old to go climbing.
Ray said they recently received an e-mail from one of their climbers, who now lives in Vancouver, saying he felt that he “definitely wouldn’t be where he is today without growing up with the climbing gym in this town.”
“We feel like maybe it’s an opportunity for us to take a bit of space, maybe travel, go climbing. We’re survivors, we’ll keep going but we also feel very strongly that we really hope that either somebody… wants to see it as an opportunity to start a small business or that the community comes together and forms a co-op,” said Ray.
Hladik said there will be a meeting at the climbing centre today at 7:30 p.m. with a group of climbers to see if there’s anything they can do.
“We definitely want to put on the table that we’ll be offering to sell the assets and help to get it in some kind of a different set up,” said Hladik.
“For us it’s been pretty devastating emotionally to hear about the closure because we have invested so much financially to keep it going and so much emotionally over those years because we’ve both been passionate about it. We’re both climbers ourselves, we’ve both guided and been in that whole industry for many years… it’s a big blow for sure,” said Ray.