November 2009. Climbing gym Bleau in Ghent celebrates its tenth anniversary. Ten years ago they came up with the ground-breaking idea to start a climbing gym that looks like the magical Fontainebleau. Hordes of climbers flocked to the new gym. The small gym in Ghent served as an example for climbing gyms far beyond the border. The boulder mecca in Ghent rapidly increased in popularity. The growing success led to overcrowding, as there was no quality alternative in the area.
In 2009, a decision was made to switch to higher gears. At that time, Bert Geerinckx and Renaat Will were running the gym for three years. They had a bold vision. In cooperation with the city of Ghent, a new climbing gym would be built that would put Ghent on the map for bouldering fanatics as well as route climbers.
Even though there are already two gigantic complexes in Belgium, (Klimax II in Puurs or Entre Ciel et Terre in Louvain-la-neuve), the project in Ghent is becoming more and more tangible. It is expected that the gym in Ghent will belong to the five biggest climbing structures in the world. Ghent is a pioneer again.
The new climbing gym, a cooperation between Klimzaal Bleau (privately owned) and the City of Ghent (public), makes jaws drop already. The figures are astronomical: 3.586 m2 climbable surface and an investment of 5.000.000 Euro. In Ghent, high-level sports are no joke. The construction of the complex is in line with Ghent’s ambition to become the sports capital of Flanders. The complex, which can probably be admired in its full glory on the banks of the Blaarmeersen mid-2013, should become a top example of city integration. Not even one tree will be felled for the construction of this new chalkbag-mecca. Lode Vrancken, of architect agency De Brouwerij, designed the building so that it actively cooperated to limiting its own ecologic footprint by using as little energy as possible.
The new climbing centre will without a doubt become the place to be in the wider area around Ghent. Bulgarian Walltopia, which was also responsible for the construction of Klimax II and the renovation of Entre Ciel et Terre, was asked to build the climbing wall, or better, climbing walls:
To be complete, the complex will also feature a via ferrata, a death-ride, a rope trail and the necessary practical facilities, part of any sports centre.
January 7 2012 is a key moment in the history of the small climbing gym in Ghent. The issuing of a construction permit marks the first phase of a gigantic project. The project will be the talk of the town, both in Belgium as well as abroad. The first stone at the Watersportbaan will be laid down in the spring. We hope to climb there one year later, spring of 2013.