The State Climb is bringing new life to the former State Theatre.
Built in 1938 and originally part of the Pitts chain of theaters across Western Virginia, the State Theatre had a renaissance in 2012 with a $13 million complete renovation and furnishings/systems upgrade.
The theater, closed in 2016 after a multi-million dollar renovation, was bought at an auction by
Marcus Silva, President of Villagio Hospitality Group in January 2018. It was sold again this past fall to a group including Culpeper businessman Jim Wells. It was advertised for three suites for businesses to take over and the State Climb, owned by Etlan native Dos Allen, is the first to open.
Allen, a 2006 Rappahannock High School graduate, officially opened the State Climb on Jan. 31 and said there has already been a high amount of interest in the new business in the venerable location.
The main entrance for the State Climb is at the rear of the building, opening to a large climbing area that features “a cave” and a wall with LED lights that is operated by a computer application. The former green rooms of the State Theatre are being renovated into changing rooms with showers.
Right now, the climbing walls take up part of the stage with the other half blocked off by temporary cubicles for changing. At the moment, 7,300 square feet is being utilized but the auditorium will add another nearly 8,000 square feet.
“We’re going to develop the whole stage with tall walls,” Allen said. “The whole auditorium will open for more bouldering.”
The rest of the auditorium will feature couches, chairs and tables for relaxing while others climb. The goal is to host TED talk style speakers, Allen said. The room will also feature a drop down screen that he hopes to have ready for the Olympics - where indoor rock climbing will be featured for the first time.
Another business, the Sangria Bowl restaurant, is under construction in the upper half of the State Theatre and it will utilize the balcony - overlooking the climbing facility. Another longtime Culpeper business, Moving Meadows Farm and Bakery will take over the front portion of the State Theatre later this year.
Allen is hoping to bring new life to the historic building with a renewed interest in the growing sport.
“I got plugged into it in New York City, there are a lot of gyms and they are building them very quickly,” Allen said. “The industry is kind of blossoming.”
Why bring indoor rock climbing to Culpeper?
“I love it here and this is one of the prettiest places in the world,” Allen said. “I just like climbing inside and Culpeper is the perfect place for it. There’s nothing like this in a bunch of towns around us. Culpeper is growing so fast, there’s not a whole lot of stuff for young kids to do here.”
He said that in the interest of engaging the youth, the business made sure to stay open late - from 3 to 11 on weekdays and from 10 to 10 on weekends.
“We’re pretty hopeful it will be a really supportive, tight knit community that if someone doesn’t have someplace to go after school (they can come here),” he said.
Day rates are $15, with shoe rental extra, but he’s hoping people will take advantage of the individual $75 monthly rate. He said he’s also working on including a family rate.
So far, he said everyone has been extremely supportive of the new business.
“It is overwhelmingly positive and overwhelmingly hopeful,” Allen said. “It’s been dark for a while. Just having the sign lit up makes a big difference.”
While the facility is technically rated for 13 and older, he will offer options for younger children on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The youngest age group at the competition level is 8, and he hopes to start a Culpeper team and host tournaments here while creating a travel team.
“What’s really cool about indoor climbing and climbing in general is that your progress is very measureable,” Allen said.
All the routes at the State Climb are routed V0 to V8, which is the hardest. For the climbing competitions, the ratings are very specific and the sport is scored on your progress.
He’s hoping that like in climbing, the new business keeps going up.
“I’m trying to grow this slowly enough to react to how the community shows what they need,” he said.