The CoMo Rocks climbing hall was officially opened to the public on Wednesday afternoon. But co-owners Dave McGee and Wil Palmieri have already seen their vision take hold – literally. One hand over the other. One foot after the other.
The pair invited members into the 9,400 square foot room at 205 E. Nifong Blvd., Suite 120 for their first two weeks of operation and watched as connections formed in real time.
They encountered climbers previously unknown to them; saw climbers forming new relationships with one another; and welcomed members with no prior experience – people willing to put a little faith and money into the gym and themselves.
McGee and Palmieri hoped to create a central space for Colombia’s climbing community, they told the Tribune earlier this year. Seeing it take shape has provided moments where Palmieri almost has to pinch himself to believe it’s real, he said.
“The community aspect is just incredible right now,” added McGee.
CoMo Rocks already has around 200 members, said Palmieri. With the opening Wednesday, the venue will be open to the general public from 12pm to 8pm daily. A grand opening will take place on Saturday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m
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Completion of the first route
Designed for both the experienced climber and the absolute beginner, McGee and Palmieri understand that a large part of the CoMo Rocks experience comes from the quality and variety of its routes. A common misperception is that altitude alone makes a route challenging, McGee said in January, when the key is creating unique paths across a crag.
It was exciting to see climbers making their way down the initial routes, which ranged from relatively easy to incredibly difficult – and “everything in between,” as McGee described them.
To keep the experience fresh, the gym is divided into six sections, and every three weeks starting at two weeks, one-sixth of the gym is flipped to create new stretches, Palmieri said.
It takes about three days to redesign part of the gym, he added.
The road to actually opening CoMo Rocks took patience and a tenacious spirit. With almost everything else in place, McGee and Palmieri waited for a very important final element — the gym flooring.
The North Carolina factory that made the flooring kept telling the couple “two more weeks,” McGee said. Eventually, he and Palmieri made their way east, making a friendly but firm statement.
“Hey guys, we’re here and we’re staying here until the truck leaves,” McGee said, summing up her posture.
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The factory, which Palmieri says specializes in collegiate athletics equipment, took on a large and unusual order in a staff-strapped moment; They kind of naturally focused on more generic products, he said.
Being present, asking good questions, and offering to help allows McGee and Palmieri to deepen their relationship, learn more about the history of the factory, and move the project forward. The couple showed up on a Tuesday and their flooring was on a truck bound for Missouri on Friday.
Putting faces to the job and offering conversations and a handshake “made the difference,” Palmieri said.
Now the stress of opening has largely given way to a greater purpose. From maintaining point-of-sale systems to creating a personalized welcome, gym staff are doing the job they set out to do, Palmieri said: Serving customers.
“There’s actually a context to create everything else” — and that’s people, he added.
Joining the CoMo Rocks family
Patrons can experience CoMo Rocks in a number of ways: through memberships, “10-hole punch” passes, and day passes, according to a FAQ post on the gym’s Facebook page. Climbing and yoga classes are available at the gym.
Climbers under 12 must be accompanied by an adult, see FAQ post for guidance; Persons aged 13 to 15 can climb without an adult but with adult supervision on site; Climbers over the age of 16 can climb unsupervised.
The gym also rents shoes and harnesses to climbers who need them, the post said.
Even before the public opening, CoMo Rocks co-owners were counting the benefits in their own lives. All along, the two found their motivation in people.
“It’s not about us. It’s not about the business. It’s about the community,” McGee said earlier this year.
It is clear that the couple is at the center of this community. Climbing the gym surfaces is already a McGee family activity. And Palmieri relished knowing his daughter will be growing up next to her hometown gym.
“Life’s work accomplished,” he said.
Visit https://www.comorocks.com/ for more information.
Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor of the Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] or by phone at 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.