Cleveland’s two rock climbing gyms—Cleveland Rock Gym and Climb Cleveland—may soon have some competition.
Earlier this month, 29-year-old Lyndhurst native and entrepreneur Kevin Wojton acquired the Ohio City Masonic Arts Center located at 2831 Franklin Blvd. Wojton and his wife have been climbers for about a decade, and they have big plans to convert the space into a world-class rock climbing gym.
The center sits on a two-third-acre lot and was built in the 1930s. The assessed value of the land and the building is $157,580, according to county records. And according to Wojton, the building is in pretty bad shape.
“There’s a hole in the roof which has opened to nearly five feet [in diameter],” Wojton says. “The building has been rained inside for the last nine months.”
Rampant break-ins and looting, according to Wojton, have reduced the building to an empty shell.
“They’ve stolen everything worth anything, from all the copper and pipes to the original brass. Anything that wasn’t nailed down—even if it was nailed down, it was stolen,” Wojton says.
Yet in spite of all that, the location is exactly what he was looking for.
“We wanted to find an historical building in Cleveland that needed some love,” Wojton says.
The property is just a couple blocks from St. Ignatius, where Wojton went to high school. And the two-story building, with its two auditoriums and spacious ballroom basement, should easily accommodate all the amenities Wojton has planned for the gym.
While rock climbing will account for “close to 70 percent of the space,” Wojton says, there are also plans to include a yoga studio, locker rooms, and standard workout equipment. Climb Cleveland, located in Tremont, advertises yoga and blues dancing on its website, though climbers are limited to bouldering.
“We’ll have monthly all-inclusive memberships, and daily passes, and one-offs if you just want to do a yoga class or something like that,” Wojton says.
With the razing of the old YMCA of Greater Cleveland more than a decade ago (it re-opened in the Galleria not too long ago) and a housing development going up in its place, Wojton sees an opportunity to promote “a culture of active living” on the West Side. Wojton hopes to accommodate all ages and skill levels, including hardcore climbers.
A big selling point for climbers will no doubt be the planned skyroof.
“As you’re climbing and looking up, you can see the sky as if you’re outside,” Wojton says.
Wojton currently lives and works in New York City as a software developer but plans to move back to Cleveland in November, at which point he expects construction to already be under way. Because of the building’s location within the Ohio City Historic District, both Ohio City Inc. and the Cleveland Landmarks Commission must approve changes to the building’s exterior.
The gym, tentatively called “Cleveland Rocks,” is expected to open sometime in March 2018.
(Ed. note: We've updated this post to reflect that the YMCA of Greater Cleveland has re-opened.)