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October 17, 2013

Planet Rock under construction in Madison Heights

Site will be nation’s third largest indoor rock climbing facility

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Once Planet Rock is completed, it will be the third largest indoor rock-climbing establishment in the nation. It will be larger than the other two Planet Rock locations, in Ann Arbor and Pontiac, combined.

MADISON HEIGHTS — For the past few years, the building at 1103 W. 13 Mile, near Stephenson Highway, has been vacant.

But now, the former granite and marble dealer is being turned into a new business — one about climbing rocks, rather than selling them.

Planet Rock, opening in February, will reportedly be the third largest indoor rock climbing establishment in the nation, and quite possibly the world, according to owner Nick Cocciolone.

With more than 20,000 square feet of space, the new Planet Rock is larger than the Planet Rock locations in Ann Arbor and Pontiac combined.

The plan is to close the one in Pontiac so that only the Madison Heights and Ann Arbor locations remain. The chain is only in Michigan.

One can currently see the 50-foot-tall steel framework taking shape in a new addition behind the existing building, which had its back wall blown out to make way. It will be one of the tallest buildings in the area.

Patrons will be able to climb walls up to five stories tall, wearing special harnesses that keep them safe. There will also be a pro shop inside, selling gear for indoor and outdoor rock climbing, including shoes, ice axes, ropes and more.

The construction project broke ground in the summer. Once complete, Planet Rock will offer a variety of programs, in addition to being a unique recreational attraction.

Planet Rock features one of the first children’s rock climbing programs in the nation, called ABC, or Agility, Balance and Coordination. Aimed at children ages 3-6, the program was designed by a good friend of Cocciolone: Robyn Erbesfield, a world-champion rock climber whose own kids have become pro climbers in Colorado.

As the name implies, ABC improves athletic prowess and one’s ability to concentrate.

“It’s a great platform for a lot of other sports, just like gymnastics, which is why we use that comparison a lot,” said Cocciolone, who, prior to rock climbing, was a competitive gymnast and gymnastics teacher. “It’s a good basis for a lot of things.”

Cocciolone got into rock climbing when he “aged out” of competitive gymnastics. Rock climbing is simple to learn but complex to master, with a skill ceiling as high as the walls to climb. That’s what makes it alluring to people of all ages, and Planet Rock’s patrons run the gamut, from children, to teens, to adults and even seniors. One can attack the rock and rapidly climb the walls or take time negotiating the surfaces.

Those who haven’t rock climbed before undergo a safety orientation before they’re suited up with a harness and allowed to reach new heights.

Planet Rock will see use as a competitive venue for various groups, and in the past, they’ve hosted autistic individuals who benefit from the increased focus that comes with “off-the-ground cognition,” as well as amputees competing in a national competition called the Extremity Games.

Other examples of the diverse clientele Planet Rock attracts include movie stuntmen and the Detroit Pistons mascot learning to rappel, or decend, down walls. K-9 officers have even used the facilities to learn how to rappel into hard-to-reach places with their dogs.

In the future, Planet Rock will also be offering summer camps for kids once school is out.

Linda Williams, economic development coordinator for the city of Madison Heights, said that Planet Rock will supplement other key athletic attractions in the area, such as the massive indoor skate park at Modern Skate, as well as training facilities such as 2SP, Flash Fitness and Cross Fit Training. There are also the venues run by Oakland County Parks, including the Red Oaks Nature Center, Red Oaks Waterpark, Red Oaks Dog Park and the Red Oaks Golf Course.

“These are places you can take the whole family,” Williams said. “There are lots of recreational and fitness options for people of all ages, from toddlers to seniors. So a new addition like Planet Rock continues to raise our quality-of-life offerings here in Madison Heights. It’s a destination. And it’s not like there’s one in every city. This is something very unique, cool and exciting.”

Planet Rock is under construction at 1103 W. 13 Mile, expected to open in February. For more information, visit http://www.planet-rock.com.