A rock-climbing center that started in Rockville will make its return to the county this year at Rio Lakefront in Gaithersburg.
The climbing center has two other locations in Virginia in Alexandria and Sterling. The upcoming location in Rio, at 9811 Washingtonian Blvd., Suite 300, is expected to open by the end of the year, according to Lillian Chao-Quinlan, executive chair of Sportrock Climbing Centers board of directors.
Sportrock Climbing Centers opened its first location in Rockville in 1994, prior to closing in 2006. Chao-Quinlan said the addition to Rio is a homecoming for the company.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “We’re very excited to come home, back to our roots to Montgomery County where it all started.”
Laurie Yankowski, regional director of marketing for Peterson Companies, which manages Rio Lakefront, said the company is thrilled with the upcoming addition.
“We’re so excited to welcome Sportrock Climbing Centers to Rio later this year,” Yankowski wrote in an email. “As we continue to evolve the merchant mix at Rio, Sportrock Climbing Centers will add a dynamic new offering to our community and will reinforce Rio as the region’s go-to destination for the ultimate shopping, dining, and entertainment experience.”
The company’s expansion to Rio was a way for the business to expand into a different environment, according to Chao-Quinlan.
“Our members and patrons can climb, dine, shop, even see a movie, without having to get into their cars,” she said in an email. “Surrounding hotels will accommodate out of town guests for national level comps we will be hosting.”
The facility used to be a Sport & Health club, which is something that Chao-Quinlan said they are leaning into with some of the club’s leftover features like its swimming pool.
“Sportrock Rio will be unique in that it will be our largest facility at almost 50,000 square feet with 60′ climbing walls, with natural sunlight overlooking the lake, a bouldering field coming out of the former swimming pool, full service fitness and cardio, and numerous areas for people to work and hang out,” she said in an email
Chao-Quinlan, who is also a climber, said nearly anyone can be a climber.
“I think that rock climbing is just a platform to experience where you can be,” she said. “So, if you’re willing to get off the ground, you can be a climber. You don’t have to have the equipment, the skills or the physicality, you just need to come on in and have an experience.”
Another exciting aspect for the business moving into Rio Lakefront is partnering with other businesses, Chao-Quinlan said.
“It’s really exciting because everybody is so willing to partner,” she said. “It’s really exciting to have those discussions with small business owners because we are small business owners. So, I think we intrinsically appreciate the value of community and support.”