LINCOLN PARK — Indoor rock-climbing gym Brooklyn Boulders’ second Chicago facility opens Monday in Lincoln Park.
The 43,000-square-foot gym at 2131 N. Wayne Ave. complements Brooklyn Boulders’ smaller West Loop gym by offering more training equipment, group fitness studios and more climbing walls.
The facility’s defining feature is its massive bouldering field at the center of the open gym, where members climb colorful artificial rock formations at various angles without a rope or harness. The floor is covered by a thick foam pad to catch climbers’ falls.
The gym has a “mirror wall” with a symmetrical climbing route so people can correct strength imbalances in their body, as well as a 30-foot slab wall for rock climbing with ropes and harnesses.
General manager Claire Bao said Brooklyn Boulders West Loop, which has taller, 55-foot rock-climbing walls with about 100 training routes, is “the place to go if you’re interested in rope climbing.”
But Lincoln Park’s gym has a stronger focus on fitness training, Bao said. The facility has a large group fitness studio; a weight room for strength, cardio and conditioning; and a yoga studio.
Chicago memberships grant unlimited access to both gyms and are on sale for $85 per month for the first three months before rising to the normal monthly price of $115.
Membership includes free first-time guest passes, 50 percent off climbing classes and free access to all other yoga and fitness courses.
The group classes, which are capped at 10 participants due to the pandemic, will begin in October, Bao said.
After working out, climbers can visit the elevated “recovery mezzanine” that overlooks the bouldering field to use various equipment to decompress.
The facility also has smaller, gender-neutral locker rooms, as well as full-size locker rooms with saunas, showers and restrooms.
The new gym is the largest in the Brooklyn Boulders family, which has five locations across Chicago, New York and Massachusetts.
The facility is large enough to hold 634 people, Bao said, but they’re operating at 25 percent capacity with a cap of 158 people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s rare that we will be at capacity, and we have lots of open space here to spread out for the safety of everyone,” Bao said.
Other coronavirus-related precautions at the gym include industrial air filters that circulate outdoor air into the building throughout the day, sanitizing stations and reminders, mandatory face masks and making sure high-touch surfaces are cleaned every half hour.
Bao said Brooklyn Boulders welcomes climbers at any level of experience, including people who have never climbed before.
“Part of our ethos and why this job is so rewarding is that we get to welcome people into the sport,” Bao said. “Climbing can seem intimidating, but our job is to make it as welcoming as possible.”
Bao said she was “the least athletic person in the world” until she started climbing at 19 years old and “fell in love with the sport.”
She said climbing has taught her how to overcome fear, tune in with her body and cope with failure on the way to success.
“You learn to fall and be OK with that, but you’re also cheering people on and have that same support system behind you,” Bao said. “Being able to share this with others is awesome.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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