The World’s Fastest Growing Sport Gets a Little Bigger in Oregon

The Circuit bouldering gym opens its 19,000-square-foot third location in Tigard this summer. We've got the first look!

By Salish Davis May 15, 2014

Portland is a hub for a variety of international trends, from microbrews to bike-friendly city routes, and our eclectic sports scene is no exception. Case in point? The explosion of bouldering, a type of rock climbing without ropes or harnesses making use of squishy “crash pads” to break one’s fall. The Portland area is a Northwest hub for bouldering fanatics, who have plenty to be excited about: the Circuit Gym’s third location is ready to cement the city's rep as a destination for lovers of the world’s fastest growing sport.

We visited the Tigard construction site of the new gym, an enormous high-ceilinged warehouse formerly home to Elmo Studds Lumber Company. The new location will include parking for 400-500 vehicles, yoga studios, private showers, fitness equipment, slacklines, and a gear shop. The place is seriously decked out, and we’re already impressed.

We met up with Andy Coleman, the owner of the Circuit trifecta, for his take on the new location. Coleman lives the Good Life, splitting his days between surfing near his coastal SoCal home, climbing, and building up Oregon's Circuit Gym enterprise. He spoke about the new gym, one foot propped up on a skateboard, welding sparks flying in the background, “The Tigard area seemed like a good audience. I remember driving by this site three, four years ago and it wasn’t vacant but I thought ‘Aw man, that would be a killer climbing gym!’. We’re always worried about having a big open space for parking and that’s the thing that makes it hard to find a place like this.”

A membership at the Circuit will get climbers access to all three gyms, each with up to 300 climbing routes, and future access to a project that will someday take over an undeveloped 1.5 acres of space next to the warehouse. “I’m hoping that once we’re up and running," says Coleman, "the grounds are going to look real slick and we’ll have a bunch of people wanting to be here. I’d love to make a cool little eclectic Portlandish thing out here in Tigard. No chain stores, no office buildings, just cool amenities. Maybe get Hopworks out here or a beer shop, just the right kind of people and be selective about it.”

The Circuit is more than a bouldering gym— it’s a community space. Circuit employee and avid boulderess, Chloe Mandell, sees the gym as a social hub: “It’s a great way to meet people and it’s a community center in a non-traditional way. There are so many people who have met their spouses at the Circuit. It’s funny. There are Circuit babies too!”

During the walk-through, local welders (climbers themselves) joked together, seeming genuinely excited to build the giant structures they will soon climb. One metal boulder skeleton is shaped like a giant scorpion, with challenging angles, massive overhangs, and arêtes galore. One side of the “tail” has a double decker structure; climb a little, rest at an outcropping, and traverse along a second story boulder. 

The gym looks drastically different every week. You can check out a time lapse of the construction here and here. Your first chance to see the Tigard gym in person? The June 6 preview night complete with food, beer, and entertainment for all ages. In the meantime, check out the other two gyms in Northeast and Southwest Portland.

Circuit Gym
SW Durham and Upper Boone’s Ferry Road

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