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The Richmond Oval: Olympic Climbing in Vancouver

Andrew Clark of Richmond Oval discusses the facility's brand-new, competition-grade, climbing walls.

This last year, climbing was meant to join the Olympic cannon for Tokyo 2020. Though the competition has been postponed by a year, the Olympic standard by which climbing shall soon be measured has been noticed by one of Vancouver’s premier fitness facilities: The Richmond Oval.

The Oval was built for the 2010 winter Olympics as a long-track speed skating rink. Since its inception, the Olympic-level facility has transformed into a membership-based fitness facility where some of the country’s best athletes come to perform. That now includes climbers from Team Canada.

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The Richmond Oval climbing wall is finally up and running! I had the opportunity to climb there for the first time. It is amazing! It's nice to see I haven't lost much endurance from the 4 months of no lead climbing. I know some provinces aren't able to climb, yet. I hope these posts don't make people miss it more or feel jealous. I hope this can just be something to look forward to. A reminder that there are better times ahead. Stay safe and stay healthy. #highriction, #flashedpodium, #climbfreeclimbfearlessly, @flashed, @evolv_worldwide, @evolvcanada, @rhinoskinsolutions, #climbing, #rhinoskinsolutions, #rhinofamily, #rhinohasyoucovered, #rockclimbing, #skinabusespecialist, #climbcanada #climbingcompetition, #hiveclimbing,

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According to Senior Manager Andrew Clark, the Oval was always meant to exist for the benefit of the community. Clark played a role, “determining what should be placed in the building so that investment meets the needs of the people who use it. We’re ten plus years in now and we are in the process of relooking at what we did offer and then looking at what needed to be upgraded.”

Climbing was one of those sports on the list. Though the climbing facilities at the Oval did exist as early as 2012, the accommodations were relatively weak by comparison to their newer features. Clark said, “It didn’t have a very good bouldering section and it wasn’t the height it needed to be. We had a climbing programmer come on board, and we put together a good business case for changing the wall and upgrading the wall and that has resulted in where we are today.”

Where they are today is Metro-Vancouver, hosting the tallest lead climbing wall in the area. Clark said, “What we’ve done is we have built out the new wall to incorporate all three Olympic Disciplines.”

To do so, they now have 5700 square-feet of rope climbing, 150 square-feet of hydraulically adjustable training-board, and 1000 square-feet of competition-grade bouldering. The bouldering walls were all built by Nomad Walls, a Quebec-based wall designer with a clean aesthetic that matches the modern look of the Richmond Oval.

As one might suspect, the Oval is hoping to host climbing competitions as well. According to Clark, “We have this image of holding a large event in the future. We already have plans to hold provincial events. National events are in the works as well.  Eventually we want to get to a PanAm or something on that scale. We do have the infrastructure in place and we do have the room for it.”

In preparation for events like these, they got creative with their bouldering wall. The 12-foot high, 60-foot long wall is portable and can be moved to accommodate the event.

So what is the facility like? Well, according to Clark, “I walk in there and just look at the roof and feel very fortunate for what we have here. We try and deliver everything at a world-class level. We try and maintain the building at a world-class level. We want to have services that are world class and the climbing wall is just an extension of that. It always was the plan to build out a new wall which would meet the needs of climbing leading into Tokyo.”

To deliver climbing at a high standard, the Oval has worked extensively with Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC). “Andrew Wilson has been a really good resource for us. We showed him the plan and he provided his input. The vision was always for us to have something that would allow climbers to be introduced to the sport right through to allowing the top climbers in Canada to use the wall. The vision always was for the CEC National Team Program to use the facility as well as Sport Climbing B.C. We are a training centre for a lot of national team sports, a lot of individual athletes who are national team members from other sports but they’re not part of the training facility.“

“We provide everything from facilities, strength and conditioning services, sport nutrition, mental performance, the integrated sport medical piece, and so having climbing and having the National Team come in and become part of that existing national team community was always part of the goal.”

Though the facility is Olympic-grade, it is built for everyone. In fact, the Oval has a membership base of around 6000 people, each with their own interests within the facility. Clark said, “We offer programs and services to kids as young as 18 months while our oldest member is in their late 80s or early 90s.”

One of the things that makes the Oval unique is the fact that it offers such a variety of equipment and activities. Their programs include foundational physical literacy, provincial and national level competition, community port operations, fitness, nutrition and more. A membership to climbing does not limit you to climbing, either. In fact, a membership to the Oval is just that: a membership to the entire facility.

Despite the huge number of services, the membership cost is slightly cheaper than a regular climbing-gym membership. According to Clark, “our membership model has always been that you pay a membership and you have access to almost everything that the Oval delivers. It is a model that offers everything someone would need to live and train in a wholistic fashion.”

With that said, “The wall is pretty amazing, you stand and look at it and it kind of does take your breath away.” Though the Oval offers a range of amenities, no corners have been cut in the production of the facility, and it is worth your taking a look.

Clark said “The main thing we want is for people to come out and give it a try.”

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Yesterday, I climbed at the @richmondoval. It was nice to finally have some hard routes to try. I tried 3 routes and I couldn't finish any of them. The wall is so cool!! I will definitely go back soon. @flashedclimbing, @MECambassador, @MECnation, @evolv_worldwide, @rhinoskinsolutions and @evolvcanada, #highfrictionday, #flashpodium, #climbfreeclimbfreelessly, #mecambassador, #mecnation, #climbingcompetition, #climbing, #hiveclimbing, #LSN2019, #evolv, #competitionwall, #ybn2020, #champion, #bouldering, #boulderinglife, #ywch, #boulderinggym, #leadworldcup, #ywch2019, #rockclimbing, #climber #evolv_worldwide, #flashedclimbing, #athlete, #liveclimbrepeat, #training #trainingmotivation, #climb

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