Rock gym gives Yale climbers a new home

Connecticut Rock Gym on Winchester Avenue, above, was the home of the Yale Climbing Team until it closed for financial reasons last fall. A new gym, City Climb, opened in the same location over the weekend.
Connecticut Rock Gym on Winchester Avenue, above, was the home of the Yale Climbing Team until it closed for financial reasons last fall. A new gym, City Climb, opened in the same location over the weekend. Photo by Sebastian Medina-Tayac.

New Haven’s only rock climbing gym, City Climb, officially opened Sunday afternoon, attracting local youth and the Yale Climbing Team to its facilities.

City Climb is located in the same building on Winchester Avenue used by the YCT’s former gym, Connecticut Rock Gym, before it closed for financial reasons last fall. Since then, YCT members have had to use another gym outside the city, which hurt the team’s unity and practice regimen, said Andrew Calder ’13, the team’s captain. With the opening of City Climb, the club team can truly start up again.

“Commuting effectively put the team on a hiatus, as very few team members were able to commute for half an hour to the gym in Fairfield,” Calder said.

Owners Crystal and Dmitry Tananykin began renovations on the old Connecticut Rock Gym facility a few months ago, resurfacing the walls and replacing the handholds to bring the walls to higher standard, City Climb’s gym manager Matt Loter said.

“The renovated facility looks great — there are a ton of new holds,” Calder said.

Loter said he has worked at most rock climbing gyms in the state — including Connecticut Rock Gym — and met Calder and other YCT members at other gyms. He said he worked hard to maintain a strong relationship with YCT, even allowing the team to practice a few times on the walls this month before the gym opened to the public and offering student discounts.

The gym’s proximity to campus will make the team both stronger and more unified, YCT member Halley Kaye-Kauderer ’15 said. Because of the gym’s location and cooperation with its managers to create flexible hours, Kaye-Kauderer said, the team’s more casual members who are not training for competitions will have more opportunities to attend practice. Now, at least one head and one assistant captain will be present at the gym every afternoon between Monday and Thursday, allowing climbers to come and train as rigorously or as casually as they would like.

City Climb’s outreach has also motivated climbers from other New Haven schools. University of New Haven freshman Patrick Rushmore came to the opening Sunday with some classmates to explore the possibility of starting up a climbing team for their school. The gym will also work on reaching out to the Yale community through channels other than YCT. Loter said he intends to work with the Yale School of Management by having workshops to teach corporate-style team-building activities to its students.

As it courts clients, the City Climb management is also working to balance the birthday party crowd — catered to with the gym’s cartoon wall adornments — and serious climbers who can take advantage of the gym’s more difficult walls. While Sunday’s opening event featured face paint and birthday cake, an unofficial opening Saturday night attracted more experienced adult climbers, including YCT members, many of whom registered for memberships. Climbers waited in line for more than five hours to get a special opening membership price of $199 for the year.

Crystal Tananykin, Loter’s husband, said the pair was inspired to start up the gym because they felt that the community was missing something after Connecticut Rock Gym closed.

“It was just sitting there empty. We felt a void because it was such a large part of this area,” Tananykin said.

In addition to the top-rope rock climbing walls, the gym has a bouldering room for lower-lateral climbing and offers a variety of fitness programs in the space, including Krav Maga, yoga, kung fu and Pilates.

The gym is located at 342 Winchester Ave., just past Science Park.

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