By Michelle Talsma Everson
When you ask North Phoenix resident and local entrepreneur Chris Tansey to talk about his new venture, Gecko Climbing Gym, the excitement is evident. Located at 24400 N. 19th Avenue, Suite 115, in Phoenix, Gecko Climbing Gym officially opens its doors this month, offering local climbers of all abilities—from those who have never done it to experts training for the Olympics—a chance to scale to new heights in its 11,440-square-foot facility.
A former youth pastor, Chris moved to the North Phoenix area in 2014. He shares that he’s been climbing since his teens and it’s been an integral part of his life. He met his wife, Catherine, in 2011 while climbing, and when the two married in 2013, they climbed a 1,500 foot route on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park together after a—you guessed it—a rock climbing themed wedding.
“I’ve been climbing since I was 15,” Chris shares. “The experiences I’ve had and the places I’ve been able to go while climbing are truly remarkable. I’ve scaled 700-foot walls in Southern California, camped in the desert with friends surrounded by amazing boulders, canyoneered down waterfalls, and even had a 300-foot hanging rappel off Table Mountain in South Africa. The best part of it all was meeting my amazing wife Catherine and now sharing climbing with our two little girls.”
In 2019, he took a leap of faith and attended the Climbing Wall Association Summit in Loveland, Colorado to learn more about potentially owning a gym—a goal that had been in the back of his mind for years. “I took classes at the summit, made friends and connections, it was life changing,” he shares. By January 2020, after months of research and pitching his idea to banks, he was fully funded.
Chris had been serving in various church ministry positions as a youth pastor and college pastor for the past 15 years. “Although the transition to starting a climbing facility was difficult to make, starting Gecko was really a bridge of my two passions: climbing and community,” he shares.
Then, the pandemic hit. Things stalled, but he never lost hope. He says that finding a location for the gym was an exercise in patience and perseverance. Brandon Payne, a Valley commercial real estate agent that specializes in tenant representation, shares some of the journey that it took to find the perfect spot—right here in Deer Valley.
“If I told you nobody was interested it would be an understatement,” he says. “Because of our height needs, not to mention our budget restrictions, we focused on industrial real estate to get the best ‘bang for the buck.’ This proved a difficult task as the industrial market in the Valley is currently experiencing record low vacancy and record breaking rent. So, as you can imagine, finding a property owner that would even consider the use and all its quirks, and have faith in a first-time operator enough to invest substantially in the build-out, was a real miracle!”
Chris and Brandon share that it took 11 months to secure the property from when they started looking to signing the papers.
“This guy’s drive has really struck me,” Brandon adds. “He’s got nothing but a dream and a little bit of money and he’s risking everything to do what he loves. He was told ‘no’ so many times, that it became almost expected. Many people would have lost faith in the dream, or their agent, or both! I’d think this to be a truly inspirational story for any entrepreneur. A story of all the work it takes just to get a shot at success.”
“The climbing community in Phoenix is growing and Gecko Climbing Gym seeks to facilitate that growth, celebrating the sport’s progress and debut in the upcoming 2021 Summer Olympics,” Chris says. “We believe in the life-changing elements of climbing, where our motto invites you to ‘Elevate your life, rise above your crux and inspire the world to ascend!’”
He shares that between his years of climbing expertise, and his wife’s expertise as a mental health professional, that Gecko Climbing Gym will be the place to focus on what climbing is really about: an environment that’s conducive to self-care and reaching for new heights.
“We picked the North Phoenix area to build in because it’s a family-oriented community that is growing,” Chris shares. “Families are welcome. Experienced climbers are welcome. Kids are welcome. We want to grow with the community.”
Some of the amazing amenities the gym offers include:
• 11,440 square foot facility
• Roped walls, bouldering walls, autobelays, a Kilter Board
• A kid’s climbing wall with a slide
• Mat yoga, aerial yoga and traditional fitness equipment
• A gear shop and snack bar
• Social spaces for events
When it comes to programming, there will be yoga classes including mat, aerial and kids yoga, youth climbing teams, a climbing academy, competitions, availability for group events, and more. Some of the features that Chris says stand out the most are the wooden argyle pattered walls built by Vertical Solutions with a giant cave, overhanging features and walnut hardwood edging. Eventually, there will be climbing competitions, symposiums, large group events, and more. Chris and his wife Catherine are excited for their two daughters, Callie and Clara, ages 4 and 2, to meet new friends on the kid’s wall with a six-foot spiral slide.
“The term ‘moving mountains to build one’ is appropriate for what it took to create Gecko Climbing Gym; we met a lot of no’s and persistence was needed,” he shares. “But I’m so excited to open the doors for climbing this month and welcome everyone in to experience our dream come true and create our own climbing community.”
The grand opening of Gecko Climbing Gym is planned for this month; specific details are available at GeckoClimbingGym.com. The yoga studio is currently open to new members and drop-in guests; details are available on the website. You can also find Gecko Climbing Gym on Facebook @GeckoClimbingGym and Instagram @gecko_climbing_gym.