Dana blogs rock-climbing!

by admin on October 21, 2011

I arrived in Reno last night, and I will be playing in the Western States Open chess tournament beginning about three hours from now. But today I won’t write about chess: I’ll write about something I saw last night that surprised the heck out of me.

Last time I was in Reno, in April, the old Fitzgerald’s Casino had shut down. There’s always something melancholy, to me, about a failed casino. What else can you use a casino building for besides another casino? You have all of this hotel space, and in a town with legal gambling it’s going to be hard to fill the hotel without a gambling establishment attached to it.

The Sands Regency Hotel Casino, where the Western States Open is played, is right across the street from a failed casino. It’s been there, all dark and boarded up, for the entire 15 years that I’ve been coming to Reno. I think it will be that way until the end of time.

I figured that the same fate awaited Fitzgerald’s, which is especially unfortunate for Reno because Fitzgerald’s was right next to the most well-known landmark in the city, the “Biggest Little City in the World” sign. Imagine what it would be like if one leg of the Eiffel Tower were next to a vacant lot and a boarded-up building. Not too attractive.

But guess what! There is a new tenant or owner (I don’t know which) in town! And they have turned the old Fitzgerald’s Casino into the world’s largest artificial climbing wall.

That’s right, you can now (they opened October 1) go into the former Fitzgerald’s casino, plunk down $15 for a day pass, and climb to the top of a 10-story building, 164 feet (50 meters) tall. Out front, capturing the spirit of the new establishment, there is a sign saying “No Smoking. No Gaming. No Whining.”

I can think of four reasons why this idea is completely nuts and it will take a miracle for it to succeed.

Cost. How much does it cost to rent (or buy) an entire 10-story building, in the absolute primo real estate location in Reno, just so you can use the outside wall? How much is their insurance going to cost?

Name. They’re calling the new facility CommRow. Here’s an experiment. Look away from your computer for ten seconds and then see if you can remember the name of the establishment. I couldn’t. CommRow is the blandest name I have ever heard for something that should be groovy and hip. It sounds like some business park out in suburbia.

Demographic, part 1. There’s no delicate way to say this, but your typical visitor to Reno is not a rock climber. The demographic here runs to old, overweight smokers who can barely walk, let alone scale a 164-foot wall. Once I was talking with Jesse Kraai, who put it somewhat differently. Las Vegas, he said, is wall-to-wall hot women. In Reno, you can’t find a hot woman anywhere. (Don’t blame me! Jesse said it, not me!)

Demographic, part 2.  And then the other side of the equation: Will the rock-climbers come? I don’t know a lot of rock-climbers, but somehow it seems to me that they are the types who like to get outside and far, far away from urban civilization. Why would they want to come to the “Biggest Little City in the World” and climb up a building with a bunch of plastic handholds when they can go out to Yosemite and climb El Capitan?

So, to sum up, this whole thing is the most delightfully crazy gamble I’ve seen in this gambling town. There’s no way it can work. But I sure hope it does!

P.S. I have a great slogan for them. “Go to the casino and gamble with your money. Come to CommRow and gamble with your life!”  😉

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

RuralRob October 22, 2011 at 9:43 am

It’s too bad Kirsan never got to build his giant rook-shaped FIDE chess building in NY. We could have organized climbs up its exterior, and they would have been called “rook-climbers”.


Marc October 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

As a rock-climbing chess player, or chess-playing rock climber, I would go check it out. CommRow is an odd name.


Michael Rush November 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

This type of rock climbing is one of the best! And I like your slogan!:) It’s very…catchy


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