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  • Momentum Indoor Climbing takes sports to new heights in Katy

    July 14, 2017
    By: Karen Zurawski - Houston Chronicle



    Climbing became a passion for John Oungst and Rees Williams when they were youngsters.

    They're in the position to share their love of the sport with Katy-area youngsters as the regional head route setter and general manager, respectively, of Momentum Indoor Climbing Katy, which opens this month.

    Williams said the youth program is open to ages 2-18 from entry level to advance competitive training for the Olympics. Lots of different options are available, he said, adding that a summer camp will be offered in 2018.

    The youth program manager is Eliza Keegan, who has been associated with the youth programs of the Houston Dynamo.

    The multi-million dollar, 36,000-square-foot gym will have an operational staff of 20 plus coaches. The indoor gym in Salt Lake City, the company's headquarters, has more than 50 coaches, Williams added for comparison.

    Momentum chose Katy as the site for its largest and first gym outside of Utah because it's a family-based community and near the Katy Freeway at 25410 Katy Mills Parkway.

    The Katy gym is set to open July 17 for two weeks of festivities, including free tours. The soft opening will be July 24 and the grand opening will be July 29. Visit www.momentumclimbing.com for details.

    The facility can accommodate between 150 to 200 climbers with features that include a 50-foot climbing wall and a top-out boulder in addition to the perimeter walls for boulder climbing and other climbing walls of various heights and skill levels.

    Sport, bouldering and speed climbing, the disciplines that will be featured at Toyko's 2020 Olympics, are all available at Katy.

    But there's more. Williams said the facility is a full-service gym with cardio machines and free weights. Yoga classes will be offered.

    Oungst finds that climbing and yoga are natural partners. Participation in yoga helps a person develop mental control, balance and proper breathing, which are all important in climbing.

    "Anyone can climb," said Williams.

    Climbing offers opportunities for youths who don't excel in traditional sports to find a home and challenge themselves. Benefits include improved hand-eye coordination, social skills and confidence, Williams said. Different levels of climbing classes are offered.

    As an 11-year-old attending a birthday party at a climbing facility, Williams said he fell in love with rock climbing. He stayed with climbing through college and said, "I've climbed all over the United States."

    "It's unbelievably challenging. It's so welcoming. I love it. It's really fun for everyone," said Williams, who added that climbers regardless of their ability levels can have a great time.

    Oungst started climbing small bluffs as a six-year-old on family vacations near St. Louis. He stopped after his father died and found other attractions in secondary school, but came back. A Level 4 USA Climbing National Route Setter, Oungst, a setter for 14 years, said, "I love the community aspect of climbing - the social aspect."

    Because of climbing's wide appeal, it's possible to sit down and chat with a six-year-old on one side and an octogenarian on the other side, he explained. On the national level, he's witnessed a growth in climbing as well as skill levels. "I never thought I'd see what kids are doing today," he said.

    A Momentum Indoor Climbing fact sheet shows the U.S. climbing gym market grew from 5 percent in 2009 to 13 percent in 2016.

    A Jan. 3, 2017 article in Climbing Business Journal, "Gyms and Trends of 2016," concluded, "Regardless of how big and where exactly the market grows, the future still looks bright for the climbing industry."

    Williams brightens as he discusses the REI Co-op Climb that is housed off the main entrance of the Katy gym. The shop excites Williams because of the quality of products and outdoor experiences that REI offers.

    The ultimate goal is to get people outdoors, he said, and REI offers guided tours and takes people on climbing trips. Visit www.rei.com/stores/katy-climb.html for information about the REI Outdoor School.

    People also may rent equipment at the gym, which will offer day passes and individual and family memberships.

    Hours will be 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.

    The 40,000-plus square foot Momentum Indoor Climbing Silver Street at 2000 Edwards St. in Houston is set to open in October.

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