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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Local rock-climbing community rallying for new gym

<p dir="ltr"><span>Michael Brown, 24, a friend of UF Rock Climbing Club head coach Dane Brooks, climbing at Mesa Rim Climbing Gym in San Diego, California. Brooks is one of many local climbers hoping to see The Knot, a possible new rock climbing gym, come to Gainesville.</span></p><p><span> </span></p>

Michael Brown, 24, a friend of UF Rock Climbing Club head coach Dane Brooks, climbing at Mesa Rim Climbing Gym in San Diego, California. Brooks is one of many local climbers hoping to see The Knot, a possible new rock climbing gym, come to Gainesville.

 

When Gainesville’s only rock-climbing gym closed in 2015, John Reger built a climbing wall in his barn so his three kids could keep practicing.

Reger, who was a member of Gainesville Rock Gym for nearly 15 years, said after structural issues led to the gym’s closure, a hole was left in the city’s tight-knit climbing community.

After the 30-year-old realized he could only fit so many people in his barn, he began working with friends to bring the sport back to Gainesville.

Although plans have not been finalized, support is growing for The Knot, a potential new climbing gym that aims to be located just north of Depot Park in Gainesville’s power district. If approved by developers, it would cost about $2.5 million to build.

“We need a safe, well-lit, clean climbing environment so we can really expand the sport here in Gainesville,” Reger said. “That’s exactly what The Knot strives for.”

Reger said after the local gym closed, Gainesville climbers were forced to travel hours to other cities or states to get their climbing fix.

“We have a lot of climbers — up to 400 to 500 people in Gainesville alone, and that’s a low estimate,” Reger said. “It’s really not difficult to get hooked by the sport.”

Mike Palmer, the founder of The Knot and a close friend of Reger, said he is working with developers as well as the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency to find

a spot for the gym. Barnes said he’s currently fundraising for the multi-million dollar project.

“We are in a funny place where it’s not concrete yet,” Palmer, 34, said. “Since late July of last year we’ve been working on the plans,

figuring out location, figuring out how much it’ll cost and finding money for it.”

Palmer said in order for The Knot to become a reality — he has to prove to developers that the community is interested — he is hosting an event at Palomino Pool Hall on April 19 to explain plans and garner interest for the climbing gym.

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“The more people we can get to show up, come out and support climbing, the more it shows the city and the people who are making the decisions that we need a climbing gym here,” Palmer said.

Dane Brooks, the head coach of UF’s Rock Climbing Club, said a new gym would benefit members of the club, who currently train at a gymnastics-oriented gym nearly 30 minutes away from campus.

Brooks, 22, said a climbing gym would draw new people to support, and possibly new students to the club.

“What we work with right now is very limited in terms of being able to train and climb, just because it’s so far away and the climbing walls they use are outdated,” Brooks said. “The new gym would be completely centered around rock climbing.”

Contact Molly Vossler at mvossler@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @molly_vossler 

Michael Brown, 24, a friend of UF Rock Climbing Club head coach Dane Brooks, climbing at Mesa Rim Climbing Gym in San Diego, California. Brooks is one of many local climbers hoping to see The Knot, a possible new rock climbing gym, come to Gainesville.

 

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