Beloved New Jersey Rock Gym to close after nearly 30 years amid pandemic

Gym
Photo credit Kristie Keleshian

FAIRFIELD, N.J. (WCBS 880) – A rock-climbing gym in New Jersey is closings its doors on Monday after being a staple in the climbing community for decades.

Climbers visited from as far as Boston, Wyoming, Arizona and Georgia this weekend to say their last goodbyes at New Jersey Rock Gym in Fairfield, which was among the first gyms of its kind to open on the East Coast in 1995.

Maddy Grupper was part of the gym’s competitive climbing team in 2008 and still climbs today.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am without this place,” Grupper said.

Gym
Photo credit Kristie Keleshian

Jesse Grupper started climbing at the gym when he was just 6 years old and is now a professional rock climber for USA Climbing.

“I think it’s completely changed my life. Like if I didn’t have climbing, I don’t know what I would be doing. I think that it’s created a sense of passion and purpose in me that I wouldn’t have had with any other sport or activity that I could’ve done,” Grupper said.

Gym
Photo credit Kristie Keleshian

Citing the struggle of operating under pandemic restrictions, the gym announced on Instagram that it’s closing permanently on Monday. It also comes as newer, more expensive climbing gyms are opening up in the area.

“Overwhelming is the word to use,” manager Doug Meyer said of the closure. “It’s a lot going on. I’ve been here for 22 years myself, climbing for many years before that. And it’s sad. It’s a home. I met my wife here, started a family, and started getting my kids into it, and we’re going to miss it.”

The climbing community is still trying to find a way to keep the gym open.