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Threshold Climbing and Fitness slated to open this year

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Exterior plans for the building, Threshold Climbing and Fitness.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City will be home to a new 20,000 square foot climbing facility that is expected to open near the end of this year. The gym, Threshold Climbing and Fitness, will include state-of-the-art rock climbing and bouldering areas, a full fitness facility including training equipment specifically geared toward the sport of climbing, and yoga class offerings.

John Tarkington, owner of Threshold Climbing and Fitness, says that this facility will “introduce Oklahoma to what is happening [in the climbing industry] everywhere else in the country.” Construction has already begun near the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Memorial Road, directly behind Interurban and Hideaway Pizza.

Although Tarkington is hopeful Threshold’s doors will open to the public in November or December, he admits that Oklahoma weather could easily delay the opening until early 2017.

Threshold will stand out from Oklahoma’s other climbing facilities in many ways. The current largest gym in Oklahoma is 12,000 square feet. Threshold will be almost double in size, providing ample space for bouldering in addition to top rope and lead climbing, a “massive overhanging lead arch,” a full fitness area, an event room, and a yoga room. Some climbs will be suited to practice multi-pitch climbing, which is an ascent of a climbing route with one or more stops at a belay station.

Tarkington expressed particular excitement about the lead arch – he is partial to “big adventure, overhung, disoriented climbs. A lot of gym owners in the country would tell you that an arch is a nightmare to set [routes] on, but I don’t care, it is my favorite to climb on.”

Threshold’s fitness facility will include treadmills, an assortment of general training equipment, and equipment specific to climbing, such as campus boards, a full systems board (fun fact: no Oklahoma gym has had one), and “pipe bombs” to develop finger strength. Tarkington even plans for Threshold to have holds used for American Ninja Warrior.

Such a comprehensive training space will allow serious climbers to do all their training at one location. Tarkington plans to charge a flat rate for memberships that will include access to everything the gym has to offer. He says, “you’re either a member or you’re not.”

While attending school in Santa Barbara, Tarkington remembers being on hikes and thinking that the “guys with pads staring at a rock wall must be crazy.” When he moved home to continue college at University of Oklahoma he started climbing at OKC Rocks. He soon realized that “those weird guys in Santa Barbara were having a lot more fun than [he] was.”

Tarkington has tried almost every sport you can think of, but he says there was “always something missing and it was the big adventure that comes with climbing.” Like many climbers, he quickly fell in love with the sport; he guessed that his experience climbing trees paired with his ability to do pull-ups would make him a good climber.

To his surprise, he was shut down. But it didn’t dissuade him from continuing to climb. In fact, he says, “I bought a membership to the gym and ended up going five, six, seven days a week for the next 10 years.”

Tarkington spent his free time in college climbing and even wrote business plans for facilities he dreamed of opening. After earning his undergraduate degree, he started working for his family business, Mathis Brothers Furniture, which he recruited as the investor for Threshold Climbing and Fitness.

Tarkington travels frequently for work, and each trip he goes on he is sure to bring his climbing shoes. He says, “Most people travel to climb outdoors, but I travel to work and climb indoors, which is a bit weird.

“Opening a gym is always something I’ve been researching and looking into. I know a lot of people in the industry, and I’ve always wanted to do it and to be honest with you, it’s a labor of love.”

Program development will be a big focus at Threshold Climbing and Fitness. The facility will have the resources for climbers at all skill levels to take courses from American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certified professionals to enhance their skill sets including how to build anchors and how to climb single and multi-pitch routes outdoors.

There will also be guiding services available for inexperienced climbers to get outside with certified guides.

Tarkington recognizes the potential challenges of opening a climbing gym in a state with a small climbing community and few outdoor climbing destinations. However, he says this is “also the biggest opportunity.”

He explained how gyms serve as the perfect environment for establishing climbing communities and helping them grow. This is especially the case in areas of the country where good climbing weather is sparse and the nearest mountain is hours away.

Tarkington’s passion for the sport of climbing is evident when he talks about his plans for Threshold. He believes that climbing is “the sport of our generation,” and is excited to share it with as many Oklahomans as possible. 

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