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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)



Instead of traveling around the world to get in some rock climbing, Marisa and Matt Beck will soon be able to tackle boulders right here in Norfolk.

The pair, along with their business partner Jason McKenzie, plan to open a climbing gym in Norfolk in June.

Other gyms in the area have climbing walls, but Latitude Climbing and Fitness will be different, the Becks said.

For starters, Latitude is all about bouldering. Instead of climbing as high as possible to finish a route, the challenge is more horizontal and it's done without ropes or harnesses.

"It's a great sport and we're really excited to bring it to this area in full force," said Marisa.

The 15,000-square-foot space undergoing renovations on Lindsay Avenue, not far from the 21st Street shopping district in Ghent, is split into two rooms.

The front has a training area, juice bar, yoga studio and fitness area. The back room is where the boulders are. Most of the climbing will be done on two large ones; a children's area featuring a bright orange slide and a competition area also has climbing.

The space has exposed brick walls and large windows with rounded tops. It will have garage-style doors, and food trucks can be parked right outside.

The 18-foot-high boulders are built out of steel frames covered in birch hardwood for a natural look. They don't look quite like rocks you'd find outside. Colorful holds create routes for climbers. Those routes will change every six weeks or so, creating new challenges for frequent visitors.

One boulder looks like a rhombicosidodecahedron, a 120-sided shape. Matt was inspired by reading a biography of Leonardo da Vinci and thought the shape would be good for climbing.

The Becks and McKenzie wanted to offer a space that was more than just climbing. Instead of going to a traditional gym, a yoga studio and a climbing gym, customers will find all in one place with memberships that allow flexible use, Marisa said.

"We expect for a lot of people, it will be a totally new sport," Marisa said.

Climbing has a low barrier to entry, she added. It appeals to all ages and fitness levels and is not hard to pick up.

It's a different form of exercise that she thinks people will find more fun than hopping on the treadmill, she said.

And it's catching on, with more than 450 climbing gyms across the country, popularity in Europe and plans to make it an Olympic sport in 2020.

Since 1994 Virginia Beach has had the Virginia Beach Rock Gym, whose website calls it "the only indoor rock gym" in that city.

The Becks have been bouldering together for about 10 years. About six months ago, they decided to share their love for it with their hometown.

Some of the Becks' first dates were to climbing gyms, when they lived outside Hampton Roads.

They were inspired to travel and seek out gyms across the country. Matt said he climbed in college and kept at it, first indoors and then outdoors.

"It's pretty thrilling," he said. "Something clicked with the sport for me, and I stuck with it."

Latitude will offer monthly memberships for $75 per adult and $30 for children, and they won't require customers to sign contracts.

But memberships aren't necessary for less-frequent visitors. People can rent or purchase climbing gear.

Matt and Marisa had talked about opening their own gym over the years, and the most recent time it came up while talking with McKenzie, they decided to go for it.

Among the three of them, they could make it happen.

"Seeing all this come together has been a dream come true," Marisa said.

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May 9, 2018


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