Great outdoors comes to NYC
by Andrew Shilling
Feb 07, 2013 | 3276 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Construction of the largest rock climbing facility in the NYC and one of the largest of its kind in North America is currently under way in LIC.

With over 30,000 square feet of linear climbing terrain, The Cliffs is expected to open its new facility this spring on 44th Avenue near 11th Street, offering unprecedented, 60-foot-climbing walls for advanced climbers, and a range of 16 to 40-foot walls, providing a step-by-step learning process for beginners and anyone interested in getting acclimated to the sport.

Designed to recreate a safer, family friendly version of the great outdoors, the gym will provide a number of large 16-foot boulders over gymnastic pads, 2,000 square feet of cardio equipment, a mezzanine of strength-training equipment, and rooms for birthday parties and other social gatherings.

Owner Mike Wolfert is hopeful for his future in the neighborhood, and confident that he can share the love that he has found in rock climbing with the city. 

“Our goal is to build the biggest and best rock facility,” Wolfert said.

His first location in Valhalla, NY, has a 13,000-square-foot climbing gym, and has already triggered a craze for the sport over the last eight years in the upstate community.

Wolfert, a former marketing executive from San Francisco, found rock climbing while living out west, and originally used it as a way to stay fit after coming home from his long work hours.

When he realized his passion for climbing, he quit his job, traveled and ever since has divulged in the world of man versus rock.

“You put everything you have into it and everything in your life; the bills, your girlfriend problems, it’s all gone,” he said. “You’re using everything in your body, your mind and everything in you to conquer the rock.”

He explained that while the outdoor challenges of rock climbing can sometimes become a life-threatening experience, the luxury of an indoor gym at this scale can provide a safer and controlled experience for everyone.

“When you’re indoors, there’s always that fear of dealing with heights, but practically it’s not the same thing,” he explained. “It’s in a controlled environment, you’re on a rope and if you let go of the wall there is no impact involved. It even has less impact than running or most traditional sports because you’re not hitting the ground on each step.”

Although building owner Danny Gazal is personally fearful of heights and doesn’t expect to scale a 60-foot wall anytime in the near future, he is however excited about the new addition to Queens and the possibilities it could offer for the youth of the neighborhood.

“It will help children with their confidence level, and a lot of things that kids are dealing with in schools, like bullying,” Gazal said. “This is a great outlet for the youth, it’s a great place for kids to come, even for teenagers with its after-school programs.”

The Cliffs is currently looking into working with schools in the area, many of which do not have gyms of their own, to host field trips, after school programs and the possibility of working with local teachers for developing a program about the actual physics of rock climbing.

“I’ve always wanted to do a physics curriculum because you have the mass, acceleration, the fall factors and all kinds of great physics lessons in climbing that I think could make it a really fun math field trip as well,” Wolfert said. “If they do that math on paper, and then they get to climb a wall to experience it, then it becomes real.”

While the gym at Valhalla currently employs around 40 people, Wolfert says the new facility is expected to hire around 60, many of which will be job opportunities for the area youth to help with after-school programs and birthday parties on the weekends.

“It’s an easy thing to have a job because the hours coincide around school,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s exercise and it’s a great way to give the kids some income and responsibility.”

Although an exact date for The Cliffs grand opening has yet to be officially set, Wolfert is expecting the doors to open sometime in late April.

They are expecting to bring out some of the world’s best climbers to teach clinics and sign autographs, throw a party with a D.J.. and provide free climbing all day.

“Anybody can come down and try it out without spending any money,” Wolfert said.

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