Rock climbing

The San Diego Asylum Gymnasium offers a unique bouldering experience

SAN DIEGO — A unique outdoor climbing gym has just opened in Logan Heights, offering a variety of climbing experiences but also a gathering place for people to enjoy food, drink and sports. music – and bring their dogs too.

Asylum, located about a mile east of Petco Park on 19th Street and Imperial Avenue, offers memberships and day passes for bouldering — the style of rock climbing that doesn’t require ropes or belaying – and other fitness activities on a comfortable 2,500 square foot lot.

A converted storage container houses a snack bar, a dog playpen gives energetic pups a place to play, and there’s room for the food and drink trucks, musical acts and yoga sessions that should rotate regularly in the installation.

A 15-foot-tall freestanding boulder is the centerpiece of the gymnasium, offering a variety of routes with challenges ranging from beginner to advanced. You don’t need any specialized equipment to try bouldering, just chalk, shoes and mats.

More experienced climbers can hone their skills on an adjustable practice wall and other equipment. Takes on select walls will be remixed regularly, providing new routes and keeping things fresh.

The outdoor play space is the brainchild of Jordan Romig, a 27-year-old first business owner. Romig has loved San Diego since he arrived in the city to attend college in 2013. But it was his trip overseas that inspired his vision for Asylum.

An avid climber who competed in the sport, Romig visited climbing gym cafes in France that felt more like community gathering places than exercise facilities.

“A ton of customers haven’t climbed at all,” Romig told FOX 5 in a phone interview Wednesday. “They just came to hang out and have lunch every day.”

Building on this idea, Romig began dreaming up his plans for a rock gym and entertainment space about four years ago. It was planning a full-size indoor location, but the coronavirus pandemic forced it back to the drawing board in 2020, he explained.

Unsure of the future impact of the virus, Romig felt it was safer to build an outdoor space, which could operate more easily even under pandemic restrictions.

The project was largely self-funded, with Romig relying on his family to help build the outdoor gym. His grandfather was integral to the project before his death last year, and he helped ensure the gymnasium would have funding even after his passing. Romig said he views the space as a tribute to his grandfather’s support.

A climber scales the Asylum rock climbing wall in Logan Heights while a musical act performs in the background. The grand opening ceremony attracted 300 visitors. (Photo: Chris Ruel via Plain Clarity)

The Mountaineer hired a contractor to lay the foundation for the space, but much of the facility was handcrafted, with help from various family members and Romig’s partner.

Three hundred people attended a grand opening last Saturday, complete with music, food and giveaways. Romig organized the event as a showcase for all that the space will offer. His mind was still buzzing with things to do, but he says he paused at least twice to savor the moment, seeing “the vision come true”.

“It was really good,” he told FOX 5. “I stopped and kind of enjoyed the moment.”

Asylum offers day passes, subscriptions and punch cards. The gym also has the option to try a membership for a week or two to get a better feel for the space.

Romig said he hopes to attract a mix of regular members and more casual visitors, with monthly events offering a wider selection of music, food and activities to appeal to first-timers.

You can check prices and other options on the Asylum website.