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When Vincent Simonelli purchased property off Alico Road in 2018, he and his wife, Ashley, could not have imagined what they would be putting in there four years later.  

They literally aimed high.  

The Simonellis celebrated Thursday the grand opening of Fort Rock, an indoor rock-climbing facility at 7131 Alico Road, unit 130. Vincent Simonelli’s company, GC Landscape Supply and Stone, purchased the vacant land in Fort Myers for $281,000 in December 2018. In 2019, he had the shell of a building constructed. In 2020, the pandemic hit, which put finishing the building on hold. In 2021 and into this year, various businesses, including a gun store and Evolve, a baseball training center, have moved into the building.  

Fort Rock just became the last tenant, taking up 5,000 of the 60,000 square feet of space.  

The massive room has a 36-foot-high ceiling, which allows for two rock-climbing walls that rise about 30 feet each. There are 19 climbing lanes, plus two smaller walls that do not have belays, the sport’s term for the ropes that prevent the climbers from plummeting if they lose their grip or footing.  

Fort Rock has both mechanical, automatic belays and instructors who will hold the ropes for the climbers. 

Participants must sign a waiver, and prices start at $20 for children 14 and younger and $30 for a day pass.  

“My husband is an entrepreneur by every definition of the word,” Ashley Simonelli said. “He’s never really been a rock climber. I’ve been more the athlete, and I love rock climbing.”  

The lack of any facility like this one in Southwest Florida prompted the husband-and-wife team to create one here.  

“We have friends who would drive two hours, one way or the other,” Ashley Simonelli said. “To Fort Lauderdale or Miami or to Tampa. Those were the closest ones we had. From a business perspective, it just seemed like it would be a great venture. We do love being athletes, and we do love working out. We’ve been reached out to by hundreds. And we’ve done no marketing or advertising. It’s all been by word of mouth and Facebook.”  

About two months ago, Ashley Simonelli connected with Katrinn Mouritsen, who recently moved to Southwest Florida with her husband, Matthew. Katrinn Mouritsen learned to rock climb near her hometown of Syracuse, Utah. She is now Fort Rock’s general manager, with Diana Burch assisting her as the operations manager.

“This is going to be tremendously popular,” Mouritsen said. “We were selling out of family memberships. We sold 50 in the first 12 hours. We’re only selling 325. They’re selling like lightning, so we already know it’s going to be a huge deal.”  

A turning point in the sport’s popularity happened two years ago.  

“Rock climbing was added to the 2020 Olympics,” she said. “It’s growing in popularity. It’s creating opportunities for people who want to get really good. You can now go to the Olympics.”  

There are climbing lanes created for different skill levels, from beginner to expert.  

“Don’t be scared,” Mouritsen said of her advice for newcomers to the sport. “It’s really thrilling. It is a little bit of an adrenaline rush when you get to the top of the wall. Once you do it, it’s really an exhilarating experience.” 

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

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