Forge Parkour has gone over the edge.
The specialist running-and-jumping gym at 311 S.E. 97th Ave. in Eastgate closed during the 2020 pandemic. In March, its owner-operators called it quits.
Forge is known for known for its angular black building next to the I-205 freeway, which was built specifically as the Portland home of the sport.
Restrictions on how many people can use a gym, along with problems with neighbors, forced Forge into a dead end. Income dropped and the biggest asset, the land and building the Schatz family has owned for 20 years, has become valuable.
Owner Austin Schatz told the Business Tribune that the gym continuing is very unlikely unless another parkour operator steps in.
"We had to put the building up for sale, and it all depends on when a person comes through and actually buys it. A different parkour gym was looking to buy and move in but the bank was looking at their past financial year, even though nobody made any money in the past year. So, nobody can get a loan."
Selling could be difficult.
"It is a unique building in an interesting location," Schatz said, "with a unique layout, because it was designed specifically for parkour." Whoever buys it will have to remove 13 tons of rubber mat flooring, as well as disassembling the huge wooden towers.
Forge closed for the first six months of the pandemic. When Multnomah County made it to phase one the business was able to reopen with very limited capacity. No equipment-sharing was allowed and everything had to be cleaned between sessions.
It closed back down in December 2020, then reopened in January in a limited capacity. But there just wasn't enough revenue to survive.
Schatz realized four months ago that they wouldn't survive.
The problem wasn't just the gym. The family owned four apartments next door and the rent partially subsidized the gym.
"They essentially paid our property taxes," Schatz said. "But when COVID hit, we had our fourplex over there and two people could barely pay rent because nobody has a job. So fine, whatever. And then we had one person move out (which created) a vacancy, and then we had a squatter for eight months."
He says the city department for dealing with that was closed down, and in the meantime the squatter did thousands of dollars' worth of damage.
Someone was interested in using the Forge building as a motorcycle shop. Somebody else wanted to add a swimming pool.
"I can't remember the third one. It was another interesting thing, kind of like that," Schatz said.
Parkour is an urban sport that requires no equipment beyond a solid pair of sneakers. Participants jump, vault and roll over street furniture, railings and rooftops. Forge had professional instructors and hosted regional competitions. But the rules for containing COVID-19 made it almost impossible to sanitize surfaces that are constantly being touched by human hands.
Schatz said he's sad about the decline of Forge because it was gaining a reputation, with parkour experts visiting from Singapore, England and France. "They come here and train and come to our competitions and hang out, do the hardcore gym rat thing," Schatz noted.
The property has retained its value, although since the family has owned it for two decades, they have long been sitting pretty. (The apartments were moved up the hill to their property when the freeway was built.)
90% wasn't enough
Schatz said the goal was never to make a lot of money, but to get Portland's parkour community out of its bubble and connect it internationally. He now hopes to work with the nonprofit Parkour Vision of Seattle to run an outdoor division in Portland.
But with two kids at home and his wife teaching full-time, Schatz has to move on.
Forge's decline was not caused by one main thing, he said. "It's mainly a whole bunch of tiny little things. We could have used more assistance from the government. We could have had people actually just respect wearing a mask (so they) didn't spread this virus. And we've had to deal with a huge increase in people doing all sorts of drugs and whatnot in our area."
The first time they shut down, 90% of members kept paying their dues because they wanted them to survive. "Our community is amazing," Schatz said.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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