Indoor rock climbing gyms are growing in popularity across the nation. Nosotros, a local climbing gym, sees a trend that could help urban youth ascend to new heights.
Driven by the mission, “Use rock holds to help households” the Cleveland nonprofit plans to raise an outdoor climbing gym for all ages in Ohio City. The wall would rise at Saucy Brew Works’ Vibe Garden at 2800 Clinton Avenue.
Nosotros founder Peter Stancato said the goal is to get more people climbing while giving a boost to urban youth in need of healthy recreation.
“As climbing increases in popularity, we want to use the money people spend on the wall, and funnel it towards youth programs,” Stancato said. “We’re going to start the first-ever climbing club in Cleveland and Lakewood.”
The wall, which the Cleveland Landmarks Commission unanimously approved last week, will be 24 feet wide, nine feet long, and 16 feet tall. A large pad, similar to what exists at other facilities, will protect climbers who fall. There will be a wall monitor at all times to ensure safety, and the wall will be kid and family friendly.
“The wall allows climbers to do what’s called topping out, allowing them to climb over the edge and simulating actual rock climbing,” said Stancato. “Then they return back to the ground using a covered slide.”
The wall will cost about $25,000 to build. It is being paid for jointly by Saucy and Nosotros, but if it is successful, Nosotros will own the wall. If the Vibe Garden does not continue at its current location, which Saucy leased during the pandemic, the wall can be moved to other outdoor sites, Stancato said. He expects it to open in April.
David Lentz, accounting manager with Saucy Brew Works, said the wall is part of a larger effort to offer a range of activities at the Vibe Garden, which also has volleyball, cornhole and beer pong.
“Based on the feedback we’ve received from Ohio City residents, they wanted to see something that was more family-friendly,” he said. “This is a place where the parents can still enjoy the atmosphere of a brewery, and the kids can climb.”
Nosotros, which has locations downtown and in Lakewood and serves about 10,000 people a year, sees a unifying activity. This past year, after the killing of George Floyd and the civil unrest downtown, Stancato and his team created a t-shirt that said, “Racism is a mountain we need to climb together.” He donated $6,500 from the sale of the shirts and gym passes to help youth get free climbing.
However, not everyone is a fan. Three Ohio City residents wrote letters to Landmarks opposing the rock climbing wall, citing safety concerns.
To ensure that people climb safely, there will be a strict policy of, “You must climb first, drink second.” People who have been drinking alcohol will not be allowed to climb. Nosotros will use a wristband system and signage to enforce this policy. Climbers have to get a wristband, and bartenders will cut the wristband off anyone who orders a drink. Monitors will also help to ensure that people do not order drinks and then later try to climb.
Additionally, the monitor will conduct temperature checks of all climbers before they climb. The wall will be sanitized periodically and climbers must wear masks and maintain six feet of social distance.
Stancato, who said that he has researched best practices at outdoor climbing walls in other parts of the country, ensured commission members it is safe. “There are fewer injuries climbing than bowling,” he said.
Climbing will likely cost $6-8 for the day. The project has been approved by the nonprofit’s insurance company, and there is also an eight-foot fence around the lot. Stancato said he is working with Near West Recreation, a nonprofit-led program, to create free or low-cost summer programs for neighborhood youth during the day before the brewery opens.
Lee Chilcote is a freelance writer and editor of The Land.