The Coast News Group
David Sacher, Vital Climbing Gym co-owner, in the 8,100 square space that will be a bouldering gym. The sport of bouldering can be done solo or in any size group. Photo by Promise Yee
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Bouldering gym set to open on South Coast Highway

OCEANSIDE — A pair of young entrepreneurs are set to open Vital Climbing Gym in the former K5 Boardshop building on 525 South Coast Highway this summer. The gym will feature bouldering, which entails climbing under 20 feet, a crash pad and no ropes. This allows the sport to be done solo or by any size group.

“In rope climbing you have to have a partner,” David Sacher, gym co-owner said. “For bouldering you can go by yourself or with as many friends as you want. There is not a rope, so multiple groups can be working on a climb at the same time.”

Bouldering encourages social climbing, and usually attracts a sports minded age 30 and under crowd.

The sport also lends itself to team building.

“We like to keep the facility open to anybody to use,” Sacher said.

Sacher and Nam Pham, both 28 years old, are co-owners of the gym. They also have three other climbing gyms in Carlsbad, Murrietta and Bellingham, Wash. The gym in Carlsbad was their first facility. It has been open for five years. Sacher did not share annual earnings, but said the businesses are “healthy.”

All gyms follow the same operations plan that allows nonmembers to participate from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with staff present, and gives members unlimited keycard access.

The gyms offer bouldering clinics and outdoor climbing trips.

“A lot of people start climbing for the first time,” Sacher said. “It’s really cool to see that.”

The Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use and coastal permit for the gym on Feb. 22. Commissioners shared their support.

“I look forward to your type of use,” Commissioner Claudia Troisi said. “It’s a sports oriented, healthy alternative to other uses. We need more uses like yours.”

Prior to approval commissioners questioned sufficient onsite parking, and membership access without staff on site.

There are no city parking requirements for commercial recreation facilities. The site provides 18 parking spaces, and new bike racks will be added. Pham said many gym members bike or use alternative transportation.

He added that for members there is an after hours emergency protocol in place and staff check-ins.

“The system has worked very well for us,” Pham said. “Our interest is in public safety.”

Currently the 8,100 square foot building on South Coast Highway is an empty shell with tape outlines of the layout for four climbing structures, an exercise area, lounge, locker room, office and mezzanine. The company is finishing the interior design and getting set to build. There will also be outside aesthetic upgrades including new paint, wood paneling and landscaping.

As far as opening additional locations Sacher said there is no grand strategy, the company opens one gym at a time in a community that has a need, and is a fit.