The Philly Rock Gym in Coatesville: So much more than a rock wall

By -

IMG 6487December 18, 2014; Coatesville, Pa; by Meghan Kelly

I never thought I would discuss philosophy when I met with Lauren Caporizo, Director of Sales, at the Philadelphia Rock Gym (PRG) in Coatesville, but that is exactly what happened when I asked what rock climbing was all about. “Climbing changes your perspective. We don’t say, “Climb the wall”, instead we say, “Climb the problem. It is just like vertical chess.” Once you reach the top, the problem is fixed for good and you can let it go.” Lauren expanded on PRG’s theory by explaining, “Climbers fail repeatedly. We get very comfortable with failure and begin to realize that failure is just an opportunity to learn. You haven’t really failed until you quit.”

IMG 6490Rock climbing reaches a whole new level at PRG mainly because if its owner, David Rowland. Lauren described Dave as a, “phenomenal character, incredibly intelligent and a sponge for knowledge.” Dave grew up in Paoli and started rock climbing at age 15 with his friends, a pair of boots as his only equipment and, ultimately, changed the path of his life. For many years prior, Dave was a competitive swimmer and, although he like the physical aspect of swimming, the ultra-competitive nature of the sport made him very unhappy. “The first day I tried climbing, I was viciously addicted. I found it infinitely more fun because it is community-oriented, the competitive nature is low and each climb is individually paced. I also love that it is a lifelong sport. Our oldest member is 82 years old!”

Dave graduated from Conestoga High School and went on to major in philosophy at University of Rochester. His subsequent career path was very similar to the twists and turns you would find in a climb. Beginning in social work, Dave jumped into retail at EMS and then swung over to the tech world and founded a technology consulting company. When Dave bought PRG in 2003, he had been coaching the junior climbing team since the mid 90’s. When the original location in Oaks went up for sale, he had to either buy the gym so he could keep coaching or let someone else take over. “I couldn’t imagine not coaching, so I bought the gym. At the time, I had $5,000 in my bank account and a dream of how I could expand PRG. When I took over, we had 50 members and one location. Now we have over 2,000 members, 3 locations and are looking open a fourth in 2015.”

IMG 6505“Rock climbing has the reputation for being an extreme sport but that’s not what we do here.” Lauren explained, “Anyone at any level can climb.” As I delved deeper into Lauren’s categorization of ‘everyone’, she proceeded to debunk a few climbing myths. You do not need phenomenal arm strength because climbing comes from your legs. In fact, climbing tends to come easier to women because they cannot power their way up the wall using upper body strength. (I purchased a ‘Climb Like A Girl’ t-shirt on the way out.) Also, any body size and height can climb. There is no weight limit to the harnesses. “You’d have to be the size of an elephant to even approach the weight limit,” Lauren chuckled. “You’re gonna do something you thought you’d never do when you come here.”

Moving from the philosophical to the technical, I really wanted to know what made this gym tick. Why do people drive all the way from Lancaster just to climb here? Bursting with pride, Lauren explained, “Our setting is superior, we are affordable and we have absolutely amazing customer service. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service.” Lauren was not overstating this claim because everywhere I turned there were smiling faces, especially one climber in particular, Deb Borrello.

I still remember walking into the main climbing area and immediately being greeted and welcomed into the “Women’s Climb” – an amazing group of women of varying ages, climbing experience, careers, and stages of life. We catch up, work out, encourage and challenge each other, give beta, and maybe finally send a climb that’s been beating us for weeks. I know that my experience that first day made a huge impact on my choosing to stay. Add to all that the staff and the way they know you by name, take notice when you’ve been gone, and just overall make you feel like an important member of a community makes PRG Valley a great place to be. It’s why I’m here seven years later.

IMG 6473When you go to PRG, you definitely don’t have to worry about booking a babysitter. Five years old is the magic age for your kiddies to start climbing the walls at this amazing facility, so they don’t climb yours. You can climb as a family or the kids can join one of several youth programs offered: youth, club and competitive. All programs maintain an instructor to student ratio of 1:5 and the highest standards in safety and injury prevention.

As a self-proclaimed over-protective mother, Lauren put my mind at ease when she explained, “Kids try to scale furniture, walls, really anything high all the time. Here, your child is safely attached to a harness. Also, your child does not need to be athletic to enjoy climbing. In fact, the kids that take to climbing quickly are usually cerebral in nature, creative and have their own pace.” Well, they must be doing something right because PRG’s competitive youth program produced 6 national champions and 2 climbers placed 13th and 14th at the world championships in Singapore! If you would like to find out more about PRG’s youth programs, you can contact Liz Pezzopane, Director of Youth Programs, email LPezzopane@philarockgym.com.

IMG 6457PRG Valley is a 12,000 square foot facility located in the Brandywine Valley, offering 11,000 square feet of climbing, 5,000 square feet of lead climbing and the largest bouldering wall in the East. “We change our rock settings about every 3-5 months. Most climbers will find that a setting is hard because it is not well set. We maintain a superior setting because it is well set.” This location also offers a private room for birthday parties or corporate gatherings, as well as a private climbing section for teambuilding and workshops. “You’d be surprised to learn that our corporate programs focus on trust and communication. Climbing is thrown in as a personal choice at the end of the session.”

IMG 6466If you want to get started, PRG makes it so easy. You can join the Women’s Climb on Thursday’s from 7-9pm or Saturday’s from 9am-noon and your first climb is FREE! PRG Valley offers day passes, climb packages, monthly memberships and student specials. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday 12pm – 10pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am – 8pm. To get all the details, CLICK HERE or you can join the fun at PRG Valley’s Holiday Dyno Party on Saturday, December 20th! There will be climbing games, refreshments, giveaways, raffles and prizes! You can also take advantage of the Holiday BOGO Sale December 20th and 21st – What a great idea for a stocking stuffer! Get started today! Confidence.Community.Climbing.

Click Here to see all the photos from my visit. You can also “Like” Philly Rock Gym on Facebook

Meghan Kelly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *