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Oxford Theatre takes new shape as rock climbing space (11 photos)

After an extensive renovation and a strong entrepreneurial vision, the East Peak Indoor Climbing gym is set to open for business
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After an extensive renovation and a strong entrepreneurial vision, the East Peak Indoor Climbing gym is set to open for business.

Contained within the old Oxford Theatre on Quinpool Road, the 6,700 square foot facility keeps the spirit – and some finishings – of the heritage building while reinventing the wheel.

Haligonians young and old are in for a spectacle when the location opens Saturday, Feb. 29. Owner Jackie Turner has turned the closed-down theatre from 2017 into a state-of-the-art facility.

“I honestly don’t think reality has set in yet. It’s a dream come true, and I’m so proud and excited. I can’t wait to see people finally use these walls,” she said.

She calls rock climbing a sport on the rise, and is happy to bring the facility to the area.

“It’s an incredible sport … It’s a sport I’m very passionate about, so getting to share that with other people is so special,” she said.

With Garrison’s successful opening next door in The Oxford Taproom, the two businesses will now operate side-by-side. Contained in the other business is the theatre’s original projector, and plenty of mementos.

Draped on the walls by the bathrooms and change rooms in East Peak are photos of the old theatre. The original sign that was above concessions, reading ‘Enjoy the magic of the movie’, remains intact.

Above the rock climbing arena is a yoga and birthday party space – The projection window still looms above the entire structure.

“The Quinpool Road business community has been amazing, and people are always stopping in. Brian Titus and the Garrison team have gone above and beyond to help in any way they can,” she said.

“It was important to preserve the feel of the theatre, because it has so much nostalgia for people. The way concessions was set up, with the glass doors coming in was amazing. When you walked into the theatre it was a grand entrance, and we kept it. Many trades were not happy about how adamant I was to keep the old ceiling.”

Lead architect on the project, Benjamin Nycum, praised Turner’s vision during a media and stakeholder walkthrough of the facility.

“When we realized achieving the full 47 feet - that East Peak has achieved - would require removing the sloped concrete floor and stage, the project took on a new and more complicated life. More structure was needed and a lot of reorganizing of all stairs and pathways to achieve the exiting while minimizing disruption and cost was the prevailing challenge,” he said.

“I remember sitting in our office, and I said, ‘there’s another way to do things, it’s much simpler.’ And Jackie said, ‘I’m not afraid of a challenge, I like to climb high.’ All through this project, ‘climb higher’ was her theme.”

Everyone from beginners to real competitors can come through. There are options for events, group bookings, and the peak wall is the largest in any rock climbing gym in Atlantic Canada.

Halifax is my home and I was sad to think that such a landmark might soon be gone,” said Turner. “I’ve always wanted my own climbing gym and after walking into the old theatre there was just no looking back”.

East Peak opens Saturday at 10 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, prize draws and giveaways. At 7 p.m. there will be music, Garrison Beer samples and King of Donair pizza.

“To see people going up the walls finally will be the best day of life. I think we’re going to be swarmed and I can’t wait.”


About the Author: Jordan Parker

Jordan Parker is a freelance journalist & public relations student. He's been a movie nerd since he was old enough to walk, and the first movie he saw in theatres was Beauty & the Beast.
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