Hadley rock climbing gym nearly doubling in size (photos, video)

HADLEY – The Central Rock Gym is getting a whole lot bigger, adding 12,500 square feet to accommodate a growing crowd of climbers.

Renovations began in the spring and should be finished in the fall.

The facility is one of seven in a chain with locations in Cambridge, Watertown, Worcester and elsewhere. New ones are being built in Framingham and Syracuse, New York.

The 16,500-square-foot Hadley gym opened in 2011 but quickly outgrew the space, said manager Hana Skirkey. Town Administrator David Nixon called the gym a destination.

Climbing “is a very social activity” and climbers can “work through their own challenges,” Skirkey said. She said climbers there range in age from 3 to 92.

Manager Andy Sunskis said that, unlike with team sports, climbers “can make it your own. … You can always get better.” He said climbing “is about physical awareness, balance and strength, being flexible.”

Jameson Cycz, who works at the gym and leads outdoor climbs, has been climbing for about a decade despite his fear of heights.

“Understanding the equipment helped ease that fear,” he said. Safety equipment, including a harness, “minimizes the risk as much as possible,” he said.

While he climbs outside as well, Cycz said the conditions inside the gym can be controlled and climbers don’t have to worry about changing weather or falling rocks. That makes it ideal to work on climbing skills, he said.

With climbing, he said, “there’s an initial hook that grabs you. It’s very catching and won’t let go.”

Caroline Moore had been a climber years ago and recently got back into it. The Florence resident said even in a couple of months she’s gotten a lot stronger, particularly in her upper body.

Rock configurations in the gym are constantly changed so the climbs are different.

Besides climbing, the gym features yoga and other classes, as well as cardio equipment. It also offers programs for kids, hosts birthday parties and vacation programs.

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