Multi-Story Expansion Gym Brings More Climbing to Brooklyn

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Bouldering walls at The Cliffs Gowanus
The Cliffs at Gowanus added 25,000 square feet of climbing to the NYC metro when it opened last year. According to the gym’s operators, there was plenty of demand for it. (Photo by Lorraine Ciccarelli; all images courtesy of The Cliffs)

The Cliffs at Gowanus
Brooklyn, New York

Specs: The Cliffs opened their latest climbing gym in March of 2022, a mixed-discipline facility located in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Sharon Cooper, Senior Director of Marketing at The Cliffs, cited the popularity of their nearby Long Island City location—which also offers roped climbing and bouldering—as an impetus behind the expansion. “We had a lot of climbers [at the Long Island City gym] coming from Brooklyn, so we felt confident that another gym would help serve the climbing community that exists in New York,” Cooper explained.

“Residents have been asking The Cliffs to expand into Brooklyn for years,” The Cliffs owner Mike Wolfert said in 2018, back when the Gowanus gym project was first announced. Multiple climbing gyms have opened around Brooklyn since then, but a more crowded market hasn’t detracted from the optimism surrounding the Gowanus gym. “There are always [new climbers] who are interested in trying out the sport, and it’s [our focus] to help make it a great entry for them,” Harrison Rhodes, General Manager of The Cliffs, told CBJ this year.

Eldorado Climbing

 

According to Cooper, one of the ways The Cliffs tries to be that entry point for more climbers is by seeking out “more urban, highly trafficked areas” when planning new gyms. (All of The Cliffs’ gyms are located in the New York City or Philadelphia metropolitan areas.) But a difficulty in larger cities, of course, is finding the right real estate situation for a sizable climbing facility. For the Gowanus gym build, a close collaboration with the building’s landlord was essential from the start. “We were able to super purposefully build out our climbing space,” said Rhodes. “With [the landlord’s] input, we were able to create this optimal climbing space in this central location.”

Rooftop terrace
The Gowanus gym spans multiple stories and has a rooftop terrace on the top floor overlooking Brooklyn. (Photo by Josh Pestka)

To cater to a wide range of interests in the Gowanus community, The Cliffs at Gowanus was constructed to house three floors of climbing terrain and gym amenities. In addition to 45-foot-tall climbing walls—including a speed wall—and over 300 climbs, the new Gowanus gym offers yoga and fitness classes, adjustable training boards, climbing leagues and comps, youth programs and camps, spaces indoors and outdoors for socializing, and a dedicated room for instruction, birthday parties, and events. “There’s something for everyone,” Rhodes described. “We have this beautiful weight area if you’re more interested in the fitness side of things; we have this roof terrace if you’re looking to establish a space in which you can hang out; we have all these different meetup groups if you’re looking to build community…and everything in between.”

The Cliffs at Gowanus roped climbing walls
The Cliffs at Gowanus is the fourth roped climbing and bouldering gym to join The Cliffs’ gym mix, with climbing walls rivaling in height those at the Long Island City gym. (Photo by Lorraine Ciccarelli)

Walls: Walltopia
Flooring: Strati Climbing
CRM Software: RGP
Website: gowanus.thecliffsclimbing.com
Instagram: @thecliffsgowanusbk

In Their Words: “Climbing is so many different things for so many different people; I think that taking time to [learn about] that context from the community and hear what they’re interested in, and then alter course or add things accordingly, is truly the ticket to success…making sure that the community feels heard and is involved in as many of the conversations about what you are able to offer as possible. It’s about keeping open lines of communication.” – Harrison Rhodes, General Manager of The Cliffs at Gowanus

Climbing Gym Management Series