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Climbin’ in So iLL

Posted on: June 18th, 2012 by Abbey Smith

So-Ill Climbing Gym Before Renovation

Telling the stories of the climbing community is important to us. AAC friend Abbey Smith had a chat with the founders of this new—and awesome—climbing gym in St. Louis. 

Ten years ago, Dave and Dan Chancellor started shaping, manufacturing and distributing So iLL climbing holds from their parents basement in St. Louis, Missouri. The brothers then moved south to the All-American college city—Carbondale, IL—to attend Southern Illinois University; to develop the untapped sandstone bouldering along the 150-mile, rock encrusted New Madrid Fault line;  and to grow their climbing-hold and bouldering-gear company. They motivated and united the community with the first climbing wall in Carbondale in the attic of their dilapidated rental: a 12-foot tall, 16-foot wide, 20-degree overhanging roof built over a sinking floor reinforced with a layer of particle board. With Dave’s climbing experience and jester-like ability to draw a crowd paired with Dan’s keen business-sense and resourcefulness, they quickly outgrew the attic—and the  porch AND their parent’s basement and moved to De Soto to run their business out of the pull barn on the property. Overtime, their friend Matt Bliss rebuilt the community wall, where new materials and hold shapes were tested. From their new location, they struck the ideal balance of work and play and development took off on all fronts. The Chancellor’s “Compound” became the epicenter of climbing in the region for beta, tours and a default campground.

Three years ago, the Chancellor brothers got hitched to lovely ladies and moved back to the big city to fulfill another dream— to open a climbing gym and give back to the community that has supported their vision and business. In collaboration with their childhood friend Ian Anderson, entrepreneurs, developers and community leaders, they renovated Downtown’s historic Hospital Power Plant building into a high-class modern climbing gym. They spent a year working closely with Walltopia to design the 10,000 square feet of unique climbing terrain with giant eyeballs, elephants, and flowers. After a year and a half of planning, they started the construction on the building. Dan remembers, “We were in the soon-to-be parking lot watching workers toss trash bags off the roof. I looked over, and Dave and I were both in tears.”

On March 23, 2012 they opened their doors, unveiling multiple mezzanine levels, 25-55 foot walls, a 24-hour training area with a 60-degree wall, campus board, hangboard stations and free weights, recycled counters made with old car hoods and power plant service grates, custom fabricated benches, displays and glowing Pro Shop walls. Check out the gallery below!

“It’s an urban adventure,” says Dan. “We really haven’t seen anything like this before.”

In a space of power and grounded by experience, the Chancellor brothers continue to raise the standards in the ever-growing indoor climbing market. At the upcoming summer Outdoor Retailer trade show they will launch a line of new products including The Gym Draw, Auto Belay, The Dose energy drink, soft goods (chalk bags, brush kits, crash pads, over-the-shoulder bags) all made with recycled billboard vinyl, 50 new hold sets, and a new website and catalog. 

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