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Gemstone construction update

Construction continues May 19 at the Gemstone Climbing Center in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — The past eight months have been a test of patience for Hailey Barnes and Don Campbell.

Their dream of opening a rock climbing gym in downtown Twin Falls has been met with delay after delay throughout the construction period: The steel manufacturer made an error on the drawings. Contractors found 1,000 cubic yards of concrete debris when they began excavating footings in September. And winter weather set the project back two months.

“I feel like we’ve hit every single delay we possibly can,” Barnes said. “It’s funny now. Before, I think I was screaming a lot.”

Campbell — her father and business partner who also owns a fish and cattle farm — is taking a more laid-back approach.

“Sometimes being a farmer means you put your head down and keep working,” he said.

But piece by piece, Gemstone Climbing Center is slowly taking shape at 135 Fifth Ave. S., and the partners are aiming to have it up and running by the end of August.

In the meantime, they’re offering more opportunities to secure a discounted membership rate. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the public is invited to tour the uncompleted structure and purchase a “founders membership” — a fixed-rate, lower cost option that will remain the same over a lifetime, or until the membership is cancelled.

“They’ll be basically like the royalty for our gym,” Barnes said.

There are about 150 of 200 still available. Founders will get to use the gym two weeks before everyone else in late July or early August, Barnes said. The also get preferred seating for lectures, and invites to founders-only events such as meet-and-greets with speakers.

These memberships start at $450 a year for an individual (regular memberships will be $510 a year, with monthly options available).

The waiting game

Barnes and Campbell came up with their idea for a rock climbing gym several years ago, but they decided to do some research first. About seven years ago, they had a feasibility study done to look at area demographics.

“It wasn’t gonna fly,” Campbell said.

But a few years later, newer data showed population growth and increased per-capita income. So they decided to take a chance.

“We were betting on the changes were going to be permanent,” he said.

Campbell’s wife, Diane, and John and Lisa Hanowell also got involved.

“We’re in it solely for the improvement of Twin,” said Hanowell, an avid rock climber.

The concrete debris discovered on the site in September is believed to have been remnants of a downtown lighting project in the ‘90s.

“We were pulling up the strangest things,” Barnes said.

And it wasn’t just the excavation that cost them: The pit then had to be refilled and recompacted. Campbell said the city has been helpful and is working to see what GemStone may be reimbursed for.

He figures that upon completion, the gym will be about a $2.4 million initial investment in Twin Falls — $1.7 million for the building, plus the cost of equipment and operating capital.

Gym amenities

On Saturday, the partners plan to have chalk outlines showing where the future rock climbing walls will be.

“The walls are actually in transit from Bulgaria right now,” Barnes said.

GemStone Climbing Center will have areas for bouldering (rope-free climbing), top rope climbing and lead climbing, Hanowell said. There is also a family-friendly climbing area with walls for children and young adults.

“A third of the gym is dedicated to family climbing,” he said.

A retail store will offer gear, but visitors can also rent shoes, chalk bags or ropes. And fitness instructors will offer classes like hot yoga.

A membership includes unlimited use of climbing walls, fitness equipment and yoga lessons — though some lessons like hot yoga will have a nominal fee, Campbell said.

GemStone Climbing Center is constructed to be handicapped accessible, but won’t be fully accessible to those with special needs until the gym gets more specialized staff and equipment.

For Hanowell, the gym will accomplish multiple goals, helping to build up the city while serving as a place for outdoor-minded individuals to climb even when the weather isn’t cooperative.

“We see that Twin has a soul.”

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