Coronavirus fears dash opening day plans at new MEC Vancouver flagship store

Mountain Equipment Co-op’s new Vancouver flagship store opened in Olympic Village on Saturday, but two of its key features were put on pause due to COVID-19 concerns.

A bouldering wall inspired by the Stawamus Chief in Squamish was built inside the 33,000-square foot, two-level store on East Second Avenue, but the public won’t be able to get their hands on it right away.

“We’re just being extra safe here,” MEC spokesperson Andrew Sutherland said. “It’s a precautionary step. We’re thinking about the health of members and our staff.”

The equipment rental program, offered in Vancouver and at all but one of MEC’s stores across Canada, is also temporarily unavailable.

“We’re taking precautionary steps due to COVID-19, so we’re pausing our rental program for the moment,” MEC stated on social media.

“We take your health seriously and are looking into the best way to safely maintain our rental gear going forward.”

MEC, which launched in 1971 with six members in Vancouver, is now Canada’s largest co-operative with five million members across the country.

The founding city’s new flagship location also boasts a “Basecamp” community space, which will serve as a hub with how-to clinics, events and spaces for local outdoor groups to meet.

While B.C. health officials are asking people to consider virtual gatherings over in-person get-togethers, MEC says its upcoming community events — including an “Epic Spring Grand Opening Celebration” and an event with rock climber Tommy Caldwell next month — are going ahead.

“It’s business as usual in terms of Basecamp,” said Sutherland.

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