This summer, the sixth most populous city in the United States will see the doors open at it’s first new commercial climbing gym in 5 years – a bouldering lounge located in the South Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. A Philly gym – conceptualized, owned, and managed by Philadelphia locals.
Reiver Ketcham, Andrew Deming, and Rory Coughlin are the brains and the brawn of Tufas Boulder Lounge and are making this 12,700 sq ft facility come to fruition at lightning speed. They just started working together in January, but each benefits from much preparation. The last couple of years have been spent working on independent projects, each trying to bring the first locally-sourced gym to Philly. When they realized that combining their collective passion and energy into one gym would be even better, they stopped competing and started synergizing.
The team of three are bringing 5,500 square feet of climbing surface combined with an additional 700 sq ft of climbing-specific training and 1,100 sq ft of general fitness, their goal is to keep their community strong, motivated, and healthy.
Part training center, part creative space, all bouldering lounge – Tufas’ intent is to provide a destination for climbers to productively capture their off-the-wall downtime as much as it provides a modern space dedicated to the pursuit of getting stronger at climbing. This unique entwinement of objectives is perfectly Philadelphia, a city that is more than Rocky and Cheesesteaks.
More For Philly
Philadelphia is one of the east coast’s hot spots with five new climbing gyms either opening in 2018 or in development for 2019. Long-time stalwart of Philly is the Philadelphia Rock Gym, which fist opened in 1994 and now has four locations around the metro area. They are working on what they call “Philadelphia’s first boutique climbing gym”. The facility will be located in the heart of the city in the hip up-and-coming neighborhood of Fishtown.
The Cliffs, a New York-based operator has plans to open in the neighborhood of Callohill. And Gravity Vault is hoping to bring one of their franchise locations to the city. On the out skirts of the city is Reach Climbing and Fitness which started construction this past spring on a full-service facility in Bridgeport.
“Philly needs and deserves a new gym. We’re plugged into the community, listening to the community, climbing in the community, and have been waiting as long as everyone else”, emphasized Reiver Ketcham over the phone.
There hasn’t been a new climbing gym in the City of Brotherly Love since 2013. Before that was in 2000 when the city saw the arrival of it’s first gym, Go Vertical. In 2015, Brooklyn Boulders tweeted what was ultimately an April Fool’s joke that they were planning a gym in the Queens Village section of Philly – a publicity stunt that left local climbers even more hungry for a gym that is the product of local energy.
Tufas is not only well-positioned to deliver to the community, what it’s been asking for, it is also has it’s eyes on the future. There is but a cinder block wall between Tufas’ current space and another 24,000 sq ft of expansion space. The team has already begun negotiations that would result in Tufas tripling the size of the present footprint.
When asked about the origin of the name ‘Tufas’, Reiver Ketcham responded, “Who doesn’t love tufas? It’s a funky word and they’re fun to climb on.”
Reiver goes on to explain that the word ‘tufa’ points toward the greater world of climbing and how climbing is metaphor for the bigger picture in life. Each of the team has a poignant story how they have been fundamentally changed by the world of climbing. “Climbing is very powerful…the amount of lessons it teaches.” adds partner Andrew Deming.
“If people come in and make friends and that’s it, that’s a win. If someone comes in an gets healthier, that’s a win. If they come in and realize the world is a bigger place than they thought, that’s a win”, team member Rory Coughlin outlines as a part of Tufa’s mission.
The Tufas team intends to “create an atmosphere that gives people opportunity”. They aim to be a community sponsor, provide scholarships to local kids, and create programming and events that build inclusivity. Speaking about the aspirations of the organization in giving back, Reiver Ketcham summarized, “When you support people, they can achieve more than they thought they could.”