Armadillo Boulders Climbs to New Heights
May 10, 2019 - Downtown SA
By: Jonathan Guajardo - Editor, San Antonio Sentinel
Tucked away next to an overpass in a secluded part of downtown San Antonio sits the first bouldering gym to open in the Alamo City. Armadillo Boulders, founded around a year ago, is known as a central gathering and training spot for climbing enthusiasts. Friday night, while a light drizzle alighted upon the downtown streets, climbers inside the expansive facility made their way up and down rock walls while friends and family of the gym’s members enjoyed paletas, Pizza Classics pizza and Alamo Brewery beer.
“Tonight we’re having a member appreciation night,” said Joe Kreidel, co-owner of Armadillo Boulders. “We invited all of out members to come get pizza, paletas, some climbing challenges and just kind of hang out and enjoy the gym.”
Armadillo Boulders is truly a special locale in San Antonio. Although appearing outwardly as a simple climbing gym, the establishment boasts so much more that meets the eye. One of the business’ unique features is a dedication to artistic endeavors. “We’ve got to be multi-dimensional,” described Kreidel. “We’ve got art on the wall. We have an art installation above our wall. We have a great all around setting.”
David Alcantar, an artist and climbing enthusiast who created the multi-modal art installation at Armadillo Boulders talked openly about his work Friday night. “I’ve been kicking around this idea of making drawings on rock walls using climbing ropes that you use when you do rock climbing,” said Alcantar. “And then when this place opened up, I just saw how much space was available that wasn’t actually really being used and being active. I was trying to figure out how to activate that and I came up with this idea of stringing paracord, these nylon cords which are basically smaller versions of climbing ropes, from the top of the wall to the ceiling to mimic the geometry that you find in the climbing walls, but also to give a sensation of the wall being taller than it actually is.”
Another defining feature of Armadillo involves its dual-usage as a semi-co-working facility during the day. Members and guests often congregate towards the front of the expansive gym, where long white tables, free WiFi, plentiful outlets, and available hot or cold-brewed coffee provide them with a place to work on projects or just socialize and meet new people. Sarah Duke, a longtime member of Armadillo Boulders, described the community and the co-working environment available at the gym. “I love it. It’s been just a really great community. It’s been fun to meet people. I’m a student so this is the perfect study break,” said Duke. “I come here and study a lot. They have coffee and other types of drinks, they have beers too. So sometimes they’ll bring board games and play or come to study, so yeah, (it’s a) really good environment. It’s good for families and friends and I love it here. It’s definitely like my second home.”
Even employees of Armadillo Boulders speak very highly of the environment and the people they work with. Lulu Rodriguez, an employee of only three weeks and an avid climber of two years, described her experience working at the gym. “I love it. It’s a fun time and I’m always happy to be here,” stated Rodriguez. “It’s always really humbling and nice to be around people who all share the same passion of rock climbing, getting stronger, getting better. and encouraging each other.”
The social atmosphere at Armadillo Boulders is all by design. Michael Cano and Joe Kriedel, when deciding to build San Antonio’s first climbing gym, wanted to create an experience that encapsulated the community aspect of rock climbing. “It’s a very social sport,” described Kreidel. “People come in here to get some exercise but then they find themselves talking to everybody in here and kind of feeling that really community vibe and very quickly making friends and climbing partners.”
After several years of the city having no access to a climbing gym of any sorts, this long untapped market is finally being recognized and provided with the access to top-notch equipment and a supportive community of enthusiastic climbers. With a consistently growing membership rate and a steady foothold in the San Antonio rock climbing community, Armadillo Boulders is poised to keep making an impact across the Alamo City.