It has been a long time coming, but owner Mike Wolfert’s dream of opening the family-friendly version of the great outdoors in the heart of New York City has finally been fulfilled.
At a reduced $10 rate for opening day - day passes will normally run $25 - the grand opening on Saturday saw well over 1,000 eager customers.
“It’s come a long way,” he said, reminiscing over the time it took to build the gym. “It’s got a full workout facility, cardio area, yoga, strength training, kids birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, you name it.”
In addition to the reduced rate, the grand opening included professional rock climbing demonstrations, circus performers, tightrope walkers, games, events and dozens of giveaways.
With 60-foot climbing walls for advanced climbers and an array of 16 to 40-foot walls for beginners and intermediate level climbers, Wolfert said the gym is capable of serving up to 500 at any given time.
There are currently 40 employees and specialists, however they are now hiring and looking to hire upwards of 100 by next year.
“My favorite part of this is taking something that I love, that wakes me up in the morning, and sharing it with people who’ve never seen climbing before,” he said.
Wolfert and the gym just set up an outreach program with the Queensbridge Houses to offer employment opportunities to the neighborhood’s youth.
“We’ll be bringing kids from the housing projects for free field trips and then giving them sponsorships and scholarships to our afterschool programs,” he said. “Hopefully, if they take it seriously, we can offer them jobs.”
Greenpoint resident Josh Rosner, 27, came to The Cliffs at LIC with his friends and signed up for a membership on his first visit.
“I’ve done this before, but I wouldn’t say that I’m an avid rock climber,” Rosner said.
Prior to coming to the gym, Rosner said he had some experience ice climbing in Argentina, however he is now interested in improving his skills.
“It’s large and awesome,” he said looking around the gym. “It’s a pretty serious place, but I’m still very much a novice.”
Facility director Bill Baer said new climbers and those interested in getting into the sport now have a safe alternative with the indoor facility.
“Every demographic can find something that they like here,” Baer said. “It’s really going to challenge you mentally and keep you focused the entire time.”
Baer has been rock climbing at indoor facilities for 15 years and encourages everyone to give it a try.
“People should just enjoy this,” he said. “Don’t think about it as exercise or being dangerous because it’s not. It’s fun, it’s safe and I think that’s the biggest factor.”
Owner Mike Wolfert with his mother Aileen Moskowitz and grandmother Mae Green at the grand opening of The Cliffs at LIC.