Rock Oasis becomes first indoor climbing gym in Canada to open ... sort of
It looks as though the first indoor climbing gym in Canada has reopened. The Rock Oasis in Toronto posted on social media that it opened up to members on May 23.
“We are excited to be able to welcome climbers at the gym again, albeit in a modified manner to reflect our new reality,” read a statement on social media. “We are committed to maintaining good social distancing and sanitization.”
The climbing gym’s new health and safety regime is outlined on their website here.
Although there is some confusion over whether or not indoor climbing gyms are allowed to open, Rock Oasis wrote that, “As per the Ontario Phase 1 opening rules we can accommodate MEMBERS ONLY (annual, monthly or 10 pass members).”
The details of Ontario’s reopening plan do seem to side with Rock Oasis.
The province writes that it is now “allowing sport activity for individual/single competitors, including training and competitions conducted by a recognized Provincial Sport Organization, National Sport Organization or recognized national provincial training centres. This includes indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played while maintaining physical distancing and without spectators.”
The province gives numerous examples of individual sports, none of which is sport climbing but includes activities such as gymnastics.
Gymnastics is the sport listed that shares the most similarities with climbing, in terms of being very hands-on and, well, all that chalk. But gyms for that sport are not yet open as a result of the governing body, Gymnastics Ontario, ordering them to remain closed until May 29. And, at that point, only competitive steams will be allowed back.
The Ontario Climbing Federation, however, is not an authorized provincial sport organization, and only advocate on behalf of the competitive side of the sport. In a statement on the OCF website, they observe that “As private businesses, Ontario climbing gyms will each make their own decisions about reopening.”
So, Rock Oasis opened. And since then there have been numerous comments and concerns regarding exercising indoors, properly sanitizing holds etc., but also a fair amount of people who are thankful for a return to the sport they love.
Of course, it won’t be the same. Not yet, and perhaps not ever.
Unlike what has happened in the past, Rock Oasis is now booking 95-minute time slots for climbers with a maximum of 20 per session with each session beginning and ending with sanitizing. Each person or group must select a specific activity and stay on that activity the entire time — bouldering, roped climbing, or auto-belay.
There is also a slew of necessary new rules and regulations to help ensure climbing can be done safely. They are divided up into categories: preparing to visit the gym, arriving at the gym and in the gym, and include such measures as masks, two-metre distancing, no direct interaction between staff and clients, no change rooms, washrooms, water fountain, rentals, flip flops, showers, microwave, weights. There is a lot.
But, they’ve done it, at least what Rock Oasis is calling a “soft opening,” and that should be enough to give everyone some hope for the future.
Someone had to go first.