Climbing gym to open at the end of summer | News

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When Recreate Climbing and Fitness Gym opened on Jan. 17, two dreams were realized. For Butte resident Jen DeLong, it was opening a climbing gym, and for resident Lisa Howell, it was owning a business.

DeLong and her husband Matt DeLong have always liked to climb. In fact when they moved to Butte, one of Jen DeLong’s reservations was that there wasn’t a climbing gym. She and Howell had seen each other around Butte, but they didn’t connect until meeting at Jen DeLong’s cousin’s house while on their way to a Garth Brooks concert years ago. 

ReCreate in Butte

Jen DeLong and Lisa Howell, co-founders of Recreate Climbing and Fitness Gym, are photographed on the climbing walls that are under construction at the new exercise facility in Butte. The pair have transformed a historic building located on Utah Street.

DeLong wanted Howell to open a climbing gym with her for years, but Howell, a dental hygienist, wasn’t quite ready. When COVID-19 hit and the practice where Howell worked closed for a few weeks, it rocked her world. It also gave her time to work on her mental and physical health, and reevaluate her life, career and what was best for her family.

ReCreate in Butte

Lisa and Ryan Howell and Jen and Matt DeLong are photographed in the fitness facility in the upstairs portion of the Recreate Climbing and Fitness Gym located on Utah Street in Butte.

Howell also had a shoulder injury at the time, and DeLong, a health and life coach, started working out with her multiple times a week. According to Howell, her shoulder pain went away as she continued to exercise and avoided surgery.

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“I saw (Jen) more than three times a week working out in her basement. And the injury, the pain started to go away,” Howell said.

DeLong said throughout their training, she had a feeling that Howell, who was also once a hygienist, wanted to own a business. Soon, Howell realized it for herself.

ReCreate in Butte

From left: Lisa Howell, Jen DeLong, Matt DeLong and Ryan Howell are photographed on the climbing walls that are under construction at the new exercise facility in Butte. 

Howell and DeLong are both born-and-raised Montanans and lifelong athletes, but Howell didn’t have climbing experience until DeLong took her to a climbing gym. They kept going, and the idea continued to grow.

Last year, they had what they call “a God moment.”

They’d been looking for the right spot for their gym, when Howell was driving past the building on 1101 Utah Ave.

Howell said she saw the building and knew it was supposed to be their gym. But it wasn’t listed — until two days later, it was. DeLong found the listing online and sent it to Howell, who hadn’t told DeLong about it.

They closed on the building in August, and opened a non-climbing gym on the second floor by the beginning of the next year. Although the ultimate goal was a climbing gym, they decided to wait on it because they weren’t sure how much interest a climbing gym in Butte would generate at first.

For the last few months they’ve been in business, DeLong and Howell discovered that many people were excited and supportive.

“The community in climbing is awesome,” Howell said. “Climbers show up here on the regular, like ‘Is it open yet? Is it open yet?’”

ReCreate in Butte

Lisa Howell and Jen DeLong demonstrate one of the piece of gym equipment they use in the upstairs portion of their new gym in Butte. “We do functional fitness so we really want people to have fun while they are working out,” says DeLong. 

“It’s really just an honor to have a community,” DeLong said. “And to see our vision as far as a mindful approach to fitness and where people are really seeing them being built up from the inside out.”

The name of the gym is pronounced rec-ree-ate, like recreational activities, DeLong and Howell said, although some people call it ree-cree-ate. DeLong said that they don’t have a problem with it, though, because part of the mission of the gym is for people to be empowered to recreate themselves.

The non-climbing part of the gym includes a bridge, climbing ropes, sleds, showers and a dry sauna, along with others. Howell and DeLong put special care into designing each part of the space, from the gym equipment to the paintings in the bathrooms. This portion also offers classes from trained coaches and has very little open gym time. There are yoga classes, kids’ events – like a speed and agility camp for elementary and junior high students this summer – and team training, which is a central idea to both the non-climbing and climbing gyms.

ReCreate in Butte

The sauna at Recreate Climbing and Fitness Gym in Butte.

Team training is all about working out in a group, and DeLong and Howell believe it’s the best way to stay motivated and get fit, regardless of experience level.

“We wanted it to be really nice,” Howell said. “Butte deserves that.”

The bridge is a Spartan-race style piece of equipment, similar to that used on reality TV show “American Ninja Warrior.” DeLong competed in her first Spartan Race last summer in Big Fork and was inspired by the experience.

Another core tenet of both parts of the gym is functional fitness, which is getting strong in ways that you can use in everyday life.

“It helps you do real things in life,” DeLong said. “So our vision is, what we do here will help you out there.”

The logo of the Recreate includes a mountain with the slogan around it, “Climb your mountain.” The message is that if there is a goal or dream related to fitness a client wants to achieve, DeLong and Howell want to help them.

The climbing part of the gym is in progress, with DeLong’s husband Matt and Howell’s husband, Ryan Howell, working on building the actual walls.

Unlike climbing gyms that require harnesses and ropes, Recreate’s gym is for bouldering which is like climbing except all you need are climbing shoes and chalk.

ReCreate in Butte

Women’s showers at Recreate Climbing and Fitness Gym in Butte.

The Howells and the DeLongs estimate the climbing part of the gym will be finished by August. They were hoping to get it done earlier in the summer, but because of a delay in some of the equipment, like the 12-inch tall mats that climbers can fall on safely.

Sport climbing debuted at the 2020 Olympics, with bouldering being one of the three specified disciplines.

DeLong and Howell’s plans include a storefront off the bouldering gym that will sell bouldering gear such as chalk, branded items like t-shirts, and more.

While the rates for the climbing gym are undecided, Recreate offers three different membership options: a $120 punch pass good for 10 training class, which is a limited time offer; a 30-day membership for $109; and an autopay membership for $89 a month, with a one-time, $49 enrollment fee.

When the bouldering gym opens, there will be a single-use day pass option, a recurring monthly membership for just the climbing gym and a recurring monthly membership for both gyms.


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