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New rock climbing gym proposed for Portland

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New rock climbing gym proposed for Portland

PORTLAND — New Hampshire-based Evolution Rock & Fitness hopes to build a 13,000-plus-square-foot climbing gym in Portland that will absorb the staff and membership of the established Marginal Way Maine Rock Gym.

Evolution founder and general manager Hilary Harris on Monday said her organization is partnering with the 19-year-old Maine Rock Gym in the 65 Warren Ave. venture, which would be Evolution’s second, joining a similar facility in Concord, N.H.

The Portland Planning Board was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the project Tuesday night.

“Portland is just a fantastic market for having a climbing gym like this,” Harris said. “It’s a population that we feel is really progressive and that would support a climbing gym like this. ... Maine Rock Gym is going to close down their existing facility and their membership will be moved over to Evolution.”

Maine Rock Gym is at 127 Marginal Way. The gym’s owner, Scott Howard, said Monday the current facility is 2,800 square feet with 24-foot-tall climbing walls. In addition to more than quadrupling the square footage, Howard said the new gym will offer 42-foot-tall climbing walls and space for myriad other fitness activities, such as yoga.

“The new facility is going to be a first-class facility, and we’re ready,” he said. “We need more space … We’re definitely moving up into the forefront of where the climbing industry is right now. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s a tough project to put together, and that’s why the partnership with Evolution worked so well. It’s a very good team we’re putting together.”

Howard said all of Maine Rock Gym’s staff and membership will be brought into the new facility.

The new indoor rock climbing gym would be built on what is now a paved parking lot associated with the former Lifestyle Fitness gym on Warren Avenue. The Lifestyle Fitness facility is being rented by a martial arts group, according to the Evolution application, and no longer needs the more than 83,000 square feet of parking area there.