New rock climbing gym hosts soft opening in East Falls

The East Falls branch of Philadelphia Rock Gyms opened the doors of its new facility Saturday, marking the first of a series of “opening days.” Prospective members and members of the gym chain’s other locations flooded the gym this weekend and will have the opportunity to test the new facility’s artificial boulders for free all this week.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” general manager Lucas Stoddart said. Located at 3500 Scotts Lane, the East Falls Philadelphia Rock Gym is the third location for the gym chain, which also has facilities in Oaks and Valley Township.

“There was a little bit of a concern about how many people would immediately join a new location, but we’ve met our goals for membership in advance,” Stoddart said, noting that over a hundred people have already signed up for memberships.

Locals go for a test run 

While the gym is still partially under construction and doesn’t officially open to the public until next Saturday, climbers this weekend were impressed by the boulder courses in the facility.

“There are so many different gyms in the area that are good but not great and this gym is excellent,” Shawn Ryan, a 23-year-old architect from Philadelphia, said. Ryan has been an indoor rock climber for eight years, and helped to organize Temple University’s competitive rock climbing club when he attended the school.

“This is probably the best gym I’ve ever climbed at,” Ryan said.

East Falls resident Ross Okagawa has been climbing for two years and was excited when he heard the gym was opening within walking distance from his house.

“It’s fun and it just so happens to be a good workout,” Okagawa said. “It’s not like going to a conventional gym where it’s monotonous. At first it’s hard because you’re using a lot of muscles that you’re not used to using but if you stick with it you get better really quickly.”

A challenge for the body and mind 

While indoor rock climbing may seem like an incredibly physically demanding sport, almost all of the climbers present on Saturday stressed that it was equally a test of the body as it was of the mind.

“It’s a mixture of using your endurance and using your mind to get to the top,” 27-year-old Christine Conkel said. A resident of Reading, Conkel added that she views the boulder courses as a series of puzzles.

Apart from managing the East Falls gym, Stoddart is also a longtime climber.

“It doesn’t get boring,” Stoddart said. “It looks like you’re doing it repeatedly but you’re never doing the same thing.”

He said that the gym will change the configuration of its boulder courses every two and a half months in order to ensure new challenges for members. He also urged local residents to visit the gym this week, stressing that the sport is safe despite its dangerous reputation.

“The three biggest things I hear are ‘I’m too old,’ ‘I’m too fat’ or ‘I’ll get hurt,'” Stoddart said. “Getting injured is extremely rare.”

The East Falls site is open Monday through Friday this week from 4 to 10 p.m. The official grand opening is on Saturday, March 30.

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