SAN DIEGO — A unique outdoor rock climbing gym just opened in Logan Heights, offering a variety of climbing experiences but also a gathering place for people to enjoy food, drinks and music — and bring their dogs along, too.
Asylum, located about a mile east of Petco Park on 19th Street and Imperial Avenue, offers memberships and day passes for bouldering — the rock climbing style that doesn’t require ropes or belaying — and other fitness activities on a cozy 2,500-square-foot lot.
A converted storage container houses a snack bar, a dog run gives energetic pups a place to play, and there’s room for the food and drink trucks, musical acts and yoga sessions expected to rotate through the facility on a regular basis.
A 15-foot-tall, freestanding boulder stands as the gym’s centerpiece, offering a variety of routes with challenges varying from beginner to advanced. You don’t need specialty equipment to try bouldering, just chalk, shoes and mats.
More experienced climbers can hone their skills on an adjustable training wall and other equipment. Holds on some of the walls will be remixed on a regular basis, offering new routes and keeping things fresh.
The outdoor play space is the brainchild of Jordan Romig, a 27-year-old first-time business owner. Romig has loved San Diego since he first came to the city to attend college in 2013. But it was his time traveling abroad that inspired his vision for Asylum.
An avid climber who competed in the sport, Romig visited café-rock climbing gyms in France that felt more like community gathering places than exercise facilities.
“A ton of the clients didn’t climb at all,” Romig told FOX 5 in a phone interview Wednesday. “They just came to hang out and have lunch every day.”
Drawing on that idea, Romig began dreaming up his plans for a rock gym and entertainment space about four years ago. He was planning on a full-sized, indoor location, but the coronavirus pandemic forced him back to the drawing board in 2020, he explained.
Unsure about the virus’ future impact, Romig reasoned it was safer to build an outdoor space, which could operate more easily even under pandemic restrictions.
The project was largely self-funded, with Romig relying on his family for help to build the outdoor gym. His grandfather was integral to the project before he died last year, and he helped ensure the gym would have funding even after he passed. Romig said he considers the space a tribute to his grandfather’s support.
The climber hired a contractor to lay the space’s foundations, but much of the facility was crafted DIY-style, with help from various family members and Romig’s partner.
Three hundred people attended a grand opening last Saturday, featuring music, food and giveaways. Romig arranged the event as a showcase for all the space will offer. His mind was still buzzing with things to do, but he says he paused at least a couple times to savor the moment, seeing “the vision come to reality.”
“It felt really good,” he told FOX 5. “I made myself stop and kind of enjoy the moment.”
Asylum offers day passes, memberships and punch cards. The gym also has an option to try a membership for a week or two to get a better feel for the space.
Romig said he hopes to draw a mix of regular members and more casual visitors, with monthly events offering a wider selection of music, food and activities to draw first-timers.