Coming Soon: Crux Central

Crux Climbing Center of Austin, Texas is completing the finishing touches on their second location, right in the heart of the niche Highland neighborhood. We've partnered with Crux to collaborate on the design and build-out for both of their gyms, and are excited to help expand opportunities for climbing and community in ATX.  

We checked in with Crux's Head of Operations, Grace Nicholas, to hear about the new space and learn about the Crux brand and how it comes to life in their spaces.  

What is your name and role in the Crux Organization? 

Grace Nicholas, Head of Operations.

I lead the Management Team, a Marketing Coordinator and Facilities & Maintenance. Recently, I’ve also been involved with the design and build of our second location.  

Last fall, we talked with Kevin Goradia (CEO) to get an overview of what Crux is up to in Austin, and it sounds like that’s continuing along well with the second location getting really close to opening. How have the last few months been with closures and the new build? 

According to our GC, construction has only been slowed down about a day and a half. Covid-19 has been an inconvenience, with regulations and reports to be filed on the job site. There are more hoops to jump through, temperature checks, logging people in and out on-site, signage for Covid etc, but overall, it’s going well.  

What are some of the takeaways you’ve learned this year with Covid-19, closing and then phased re-opening? 

We took the approach of being conservative and pro-active – so we shut down a bit early, maybe a week before the city mandated. Then we waited to open a bit longer and have been following standard protocols for the phased re-opening. As things improve, we’ll phase things back in. We’d rather add things back in than take them away.  

Has the community in Austin been supportive during the shut-down, and have you found that people are coming back, or are folks still being conservative? 

In Texas, it’s been a mixed bag. Some aren’t returning until there’s a vaccine, and some aren’t returning because we are requiring visitors to wear a mask. So, you get both sides, and you just try and do the safest path possible. We’re always listening and editing our procedures, and most people have been understanding and supportive of what we’re doing. A lot of people have kept their memberships going, and we’re really thankful for that.    

How is the new space coming along? 

The new space is coming along great; we’ve got a big crew from VS here working on the walls, t-nutting, flooring and looking forward to our inspection so our setters can begin setting routes. It’s coming together really quickly. We’re looking at opening in early August.  

What have you learned from the first location that you have taken into the design and vibe of the newest space? 

It’s been four years since we opened our first location, so there’s a lot we’ve learned! This new space is bouldering only, so that has really influenced the approach. We’ve increased yoga space, workout areas and kids areas. We realized that we were using all of these spaces in other ways, such as for events, and also, it’s nice not to have to put caps on our classes.  

The Future Wall (at our first location, pictured below) allowed us to adjust the angles each year based on customer feedback, but we did not end up doing a Future Wall at this new location, so it was important to really focus on getting the angles just right. We made sure there was a more even spread of slab, vertical and steep sections. We also wanted to provide at least one boulder you could top out on because we want people to be able to learn that skill set. We will also have a spray wall, Moon and Kilter boards and an area for hangboarding, so the training specific zone will be really nice. 

Crux indoor boulder climbing austin texas 3

For staff, we’ve provided a proper staff lounge and a huge hold washing room, so those are some nice upgrades.    

We also opted to include the ability to walk in between the walls and boulders so that it’s easier for setters to get carts around, but it also helps create a more social vibe for interacting with other people in the gym. 

You’re getting close on your second location and the colors and branding look great! I am curious about how Crux has approached its brand, the vibe you’re creating and how that’s translated into the look and feel of the gym.  

We had a couple colors in mind and looked around at other Vertical Solutions gyms, and gyms in Europe and Japan. We really wanted it to stand out, especially if you are scrolling through an Instagram feed full of climbing gym images, you can still pick out which one is Crux. With the wood, walnut and magenta of our first location, it’s really unique. For this one we chose yellow – which will look really nice, and hopefully won’t pick up too much shoe rubber. But we’re excited about the new finish that allows us to easily wipe and clean off scuff marks.

We also really love having natural light, to give a connection to the outdoors, and feel more open and not like you are in a fluorescent gym – so we took a section of the roof and popped it up about four feet. The light really pops off the yellow and wood colored walls and makes it feel nice and open, so we’re really excited about that. Jaime (VS lead designer) also did a great job with incorporating the “C” of the Crux logo into the wall design as a walnut inlay, and then added that similar style to other areas of the wall, so it really ties together nicely.  

Can you talk a bit about the process of designing the space with the team at VS?  

It was very seamless process. We gave Jaime the space and he came back with a really good mix that worked well with what we had in mind. We wanted something fun and unique so the three arch feature came out really cool. We considered a smaller Future Wall but working with Jaime we decided that didn’t really serve the space very well. He’s really good about utilizing all the space available and working with what the building allowed for.  

Does Crux have a mission statement, or brand vision and how does that manifest in other ways – events, programs, merchandise?  

We’re always looking to support our community, and Austin has a very diverse community. We want everyone to feel at home here, and it needs to feel like Austin. So, we had local artists do murals and brought in comfy sofas. We like to put fun spins on things, like our grading system. We really want climbing to be approachable to everyone, so we try to get away from the grades and keep it more fun and take the ego out of it. We’ll still push your limits, and you can train hard here, but we’re trying to keep it fun.  

Dogs are like children in Austin, and you kind of take them everywhere, so people can bring their dogs in. We also have 1,000 square feet for a local coffee shop. We have a bike benefits program, so the more you ride to Crux, the more discounts you get. We also have a great selection of merch and an online store!

What else is coming up? 

We’ve got another big rope climbing gym coming up next!! 


Thanks, Grace, for chatting with us! Visit their website to learn more about their newest location Crux Central.