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The Cliffs at LIC rocks grand opening celebration

Photo courtesy Mike Wolfert
By Bill Parry

More than 2,000 people, who were mostly young, athletic and tattooed, attended the long-awaited grand opening of a huge rock climbing venue in Long Island City Saturday.

The Cliffs at LIC became one of the nation’s largest gymnasiums with more than 30,000 square feet of space in an old warehouse, at 11-11 44th Drive. The state-of-the-art venue features fiberglass climbing walls that are 60-feet high, some with a hydraulic system that changes the angle for a more challenging climb.

More than 500 climbers can scale the walls at the same time. Beside rock climbing, which has grown in popularity over the last decade as a fitness workout, there are cardio machines and free weights. The Cliffs at LIC also has a retail shop featuring apparel and equipment.

Owner Mike Wolfert had hoped to open last May, but ran into construction delays and legal problems stemming from his May 16 arrest on bribery charges. Wolfert is charged with trying topay off a building inspector to lift a stop-work order that caused a five-month delay, court records show. The inspector was an undercover investigator from the Department of Investigations, according to the records.

Wolfert allegedly handed the investigator $94 in cash, and then two weeks later Wolfert allegedly handed over two envelopes containing $500 each when the investigator told him the stop work order had been lifted, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney’s office. Wolfert was hit with an additional misdemeanor charge of “unlawful continuance” for allowing work on the venue to continue while under the stop work order, the New York Post reported.

Wolfert would not speak about the case, except to say, “I still look forward to telling my side of the story.”

Instead, he described the opening of The Cliffs at LIC, which featured DJs, circus performers, a high-wire act and beer from Rockaway Brewery.

“It was fantastic, all kinds of fun,” Wolfert said. “I can’t believe we’re finally open and we’re way ahead of our projections on memberships.”

The Cliffs offers daily, monthly and annual memberships. In addition, the rock climbing mecca employs 45 people, but Wolfert expects that number to double by next year. Wolfert has another club in upstate Valhalla but wanted to get established in Long Island City after watching the housing boom in recent years.

“LIC is such an exciting market,” Wolfert said, “it’s the right place at the right time with all the young people moving in.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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