Home FEATURED Detroit’s first indoor rock climbing gym aims to open this year

Detroit’s first indoor rock climbing gym aims to open this year

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Dino Ruggeri in his gym, DYNO.

Nisa Khan
Detroit Free Press
(TNS)

Detroit is going to have your next go-to workout spot — as long as you are not afraid of heights. 

The first indoor rock climbing gym is opening in Detroit’s Eastern Market. The gym, DYNO, will have over 17,000 square feet of climbing terrain and 75 rope routes. DYNO has the two types of climbing, boulders and rope walls that go up to 30 and 44 feet, with padded floors in case of falls. The new gym will also have a yoga studio and weights for lifting. 

The gym’s founder, Dino Ruggeri, originally from Grosse Pointe, says he wanted to make climbing accessible to everyone, especially those living in a city.

“The main goal of this project is to increase climbing access to make this activity available to as many people as possible,” he says. “We want this place to help broaden the scope of people that climb, or they can say they’ve tried climbing or they can call themselves climbers. It’s really at the foundation of the climbing community. And we think that our location, our size, and overall ethos will lend itself to that.

“What was really attractive about it is that it’s super inclusive. Age, fitness level, experience, body type. We can meet you where you’re at.”

Ruggeri became a climber in college, frequenting Ann Arbor’s Planet Rock and falling in love with the sport. After graduating, he became a ski instructor in Colorado, continuing his outdoor and climbing activities. Ruggeri became inspired to open a gym after avid climbers asked him whether there were facilities in the city, and after seeing a documentary at a Colorado film festival featuring the positive impacts of a rock climbing program in a Brazilian city, especially on kids.

“I wanted to move back to Michigan and bring some of that excitement back home with me and be able to share that experience with more people,” he said. 

The plans for the business became official in November 2016. DYNO was first to be built in a vacant church in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood but ended up at the Eastern Market warehouse.

Ruggeri says he has been thrilled about the positive response so far, saying people had wanted a place and unique activity like this in the city for a while. He has big plans for the future: classes, trips to outdoor climbing areas in Kentucky, and a training facility for future competitive climbers for venues like the Olympics. 

The gym is still coming together. Ruggeri says he is hoping to open around Thanksgiving. However, the date will be set according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reopening plan for gyms in southeast Michigan. Gyms have been allowed to open under strict measures, but facilities like rock climbing, trampoline parks, and bowling alleys are still closed. 

COVID-19 precautions will be in place, prioritizing safety for staff and climbers, Ruggeri says. Exercising in the gym will be by reservation and masks will be mandatory, which, he says, will work with climbing since it is not overly cardio-intensive. There will be a computer set up for check-ins and stations to wash hands. The large space will make it easy for social distancing, as well as a strong air conditioning system that incorporates some fresh air. 

Ruggeri is also a volunteer and tutor with Downtown Boxing Gym, an academic and athletic program that serves over 150 students from Detroit and nearby suburbs. He recalls a trip with the kids to the climbing facility Planet Rock in Madison Heights, saying it was “so successful.”

In the beginning, some kids were unsure and afraid of heights. After helping the students with the small steps, bouncing on the ropes, and trying out the harnesses, he says they were all over the walls.

“One, in particular, I remember he was terrified,” he says. “And then, by the end of the day, he was 40 feet up in the air, topping out on climbs. Everyone’s on the ground cheering. I get chills when I talk about it because it was like a small glimpse into how much impact the sport can have.”

It is those exact experiences he hopes to see again with DYNO: encouragement, trust, and community. 

“I would love to do that every single day,” he says.

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