The final renderings of the Latitude Climbing + Fitness facility. Coming summer 2018 (Courtesy of Latitude Climbing + Fitness)
NORFOLK — Heightened confidence and accomplishment are at the heart of a rock-climbing and fitness facility opening this summer.
Owners Jason McKenzie and Matthew and Marisa Beck are life-long rock climbers — they are bringing the sport to the southside. With the closest outdoor rock-climbing opportunity hours away, the owners hope to build a community of climbers in the area.
“Latitude is going to change Norfolk,” said Matthew Beck who was brought to Norfolk, along with his wife Marisa, by the Navy. “My desire to start Latitude is based on my desire to build a community around an activity that facilitates camaraderie and socialization.”
Rock climbing is a sport that is known for both its physical and mental benefits. Extreme Sports X Magazine reported five health benefits of rock climbing. According to the report, in addition to being fun, the sport can “positively transform both your physical and mental health.”
The report listed the benefits as increased body flexibility, improved cardiovascular health, improve brain power through concentration and problem-solving, fat burning and healthy weight maintenance, and increased muscle strength.
“As a sport, climbing is amazing because you are pushing yourself to complete a goal or project with the support of the people around you,” Marisa said. “It’s an incredible feeling when you complete a boulder problem. This concept is what makes climbing gyms social locations where people tend to be extremely supportive and outgoing.”
The restoration of the 15,000 square-foot facility at 1830 Lindsay Ave. in the Williamston-Woodland Historic District, close to Ghent and downtown, serves as a representation of Norfolk’s history.
The building was constructed in the 1900s. It started as the home to the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company, then became The Norfolk Skill Center before housing a restaurant supply company. All business activity within the structure ended in 2012.
In addition to a variety of climbing areas, Latitude will also offer yoga classes, a fitness area, a refreshment bar, kids area, retail shop, and modern amenities.
In partnership with Kim Austin-Peterman and The Space Above yoga studio, there will be offerings of specialty workshops in addition to the yoga classes ranging from traditional vinyasa flow to partner classes such as Acroyoga.
“The movement in yoga is often very similar to the movement in climbing. They are quite complementary to one another, so it makes sense to offer them under the same roof,” Marisa said. “A friend of mine described climbing as ‘yoga on a wall,’ and to a degree, it’s absolutely true.”
Latitude will also host birthday parties and group events. The birthday parties, which have already started booking for July, will be two hours long and can include party favors with rock climbing surprises.
“Kids love climbing. It gives them a sense of accomplishment when they make it to the top and helps them gain confidence,” Marisa said. “They go home tired and happy.”
Latitude will also have a slide in the kid’s area to help it look like a more familiar playground environment in hopes of helping the shier climbers try the kid’s wall.
The refreshment bar and gear shop aim to support small and local businesses. Offerings of Three Ships coffee, Cold Pressed juices, Red Mushroom Kombucha, and Lenka granola bars, and a wide-range of other snacks will be available. In the future, the Becks and McKenzie plan to add a mini-cafe for smoothies and healthy, fresh foods.
For Mckenzie and the Becks, rock-climbing has led them to travel the world and the country. Mckenzie, who grew up in Hampton Roads and attended Virginia Tech, met some of his best friends climbing.
For Marisa, climbing came naturally.
“I wanted to start a climbing gym because they build amazing communities across people of diverse backgrounds,” Marisa said. “It’s such a wonderful sport to be able to train at a gym indoors anytime, and then head to some of the most beautiful places in the world to climb outside.”