St. Louis Bloomington West County

History of the gym

In January of 1994, Chris and Pam Schmick purchased Upper Limits in Peru, Illinois with the intention to move the gym to a larger location. They had just been married in November 1993 when they discovered that Upper Limits, their local climbing gym, was up for sale. With no immediate plans pending, they decided that they would go out on a limb and look into the possibility of a purchase. They were able to obtain a loan from Chris's grandmother and worked out the details of the purchase with the previous owners. Before they knew it they were the proud owners of a small, but high class, racquetball court climbing gym.

The next few years were probably the most hectic of the Schmicks' lives. Pam quit her job as a Veterinary Technician to run the gym, while Chris worked as a Boiler Maker. The couple spent all of their spare time writing a business proposal, doing market research and looking for a new location. After many disappointments, they finally came across the abandoned grain silos in Bloomington, Il. They wrapped up their 100-page business proposal and took it to several banks before one was found that didn't think they were absolutely crazy(kudos to Heartland Bank). With a bank loan, their life savings, and another loan from Chris' grandmother, Pam and Chris purchased the silos on contract from Starks Excavating and began the adventure of their lives.

Chris and Pam packed their belongings and moved to a friend's house halfway between Bloomington and Peru. Chris quit his job and began working day and night gutting out the grain storage facility that had been vacant for 10-15 years. The plan was to keep the Peru gym open until a month before the silos opened. Pam continued running the Peru gym by herself, helping out in Bloomington whenever possible. The silos required three months of cleaning tons of rotten soy beans and scrap steel followed by another three months of wall construction and the drilling of thousands of holes into the concrete.

September 2, 1995 was to be the grand opening day, six months from the time cleanup began. This date was set in stone when Upper Limits committed to hosting a JCCA regional Competition on that day. Everyone thought the Schmicks must have been crazy! Many thanks to all the friends and climbers who helped pull the new gym through and make the impossible happen. The young competitors were welcomed that morning by a staff with half opened eyes and totally exhausted from preparing all night. Adrenaline must have kept Pam and Chris going, and the comp went very well, considering.

In December of 1995, Chris rigged up an experiment with a sprinkler system at the top of a 65-foot silo and created a frozen waterfall. Little did they know the attraction it would be. Lenore, a local climber and assistant editor for the Pantagraph, a local newspaper, wrote a story that made one of the top five stories of the day in the country. From there the gym made the front page of the Chicago Tribune, Paul Harvey, The National Examiner, Good Morning America and newspapers all over the country. Then, the media snowball effect started and is still going. Upper Limits was featured in Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Year in Pictures, Shape and Fitness Magazines, CBS This Morning and several others. The best publicity came when the Discovery Channel and Travel Channel rated Upper Limits the number one climbing gym in the world.

All of this publicity has brought Upper Limits a nationwide (and in some cases, world wide) reputation as one of the premier climbing gyms around. The Schmicks and Upper Limits staff and friends are very proud of this reputation and know that Upper Limits employees have played an important part in maintaining a fun, friendly environment.

Upper Limits is also proud of its outstanding civic service to the community. Every year services are donated to selected local charities. The gym also supports the Access Fund (an organization that maintains the access to outdoor climbing areas) with donations from annual competitions.

In February of 2001 Upper Limits expanded again. St. Louis was in desperate need of a climbing gym and Pam and Chris filled the vacancy. After much difficulty, they were able to land another bank loan, another loan from Chris' Grandmother, and a suitable space to lease. The construction began in October of 2000 and was finished at the end of January 2001. The climbing walls were built by Eldorado Wall Co. but most of the other work was once again completed with the help of local climbers.

In August of 2011, after months of hard work, the Schmicks opened their third gym. The gym, located in West County, St. Louis, boasts over 14,000 square feet of climbing surface and is one of the only full-service climbing gyms in the nation. Chris and Pam have now bestowed over 41,000 square feet of climbing on the Midwest. What's next? Only time will tell....