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Silo City Rocks hopes elevators will rope climbers in

Some people look at them and see architectural beauty. To others, they are haunting reminders of Buffalo’s industrial past.

But for many people gathered near the grain elevators off Childs Street on Saturday, these unmistakable structures became something else:

A playground.

“We look at these – and see cliffs,” said Kevin Cullen, one of the creators of the concept for a climbing facility, gesturing to the hulking, 90-year-old elevators.

A group of adventure and outdoor enthusiasts unveiled plans Saturday to groups of interested onlookers for “Silo City Rocks,” a planned climbing and rappelling gym-type center that is in initial stages in the Silo City area, at 92 Childs St.

The group was participating in public activities at the site for the 11th annual Boom Days fete, an annual celebration of the removal of the ice boom and arrival of spring.

“The idea is to kind of advertise the site,” said Rick Smith, whose River Sullivan outfit owns the Silo City property, including three grain elevators, where the Boom Days have been held for the past two years.

“It’s trying to regenerate some of the old stuff, of which we’ve got plenty – and make it attractive to that (younger) demographic,” said Smith. “Say, ‘Hey, this is cool.’ ”

Boom Days drew more than 500 people last year, and organizers Saturday said they were expecting at least 800 people to visit the 12-acre Silo City property on Saturday for the event.

The Boom Days event began at 2 p.m. and lasted into the evening. Participants took walking tours of the site and learned about some of the existing and proposed plans for the complex. Music, food and horse-drawn wagons were also on hand. The event was free; donations were being collected to benefit the Edward M. Cotter fireboat.

Cullen and other creative forces behind Silo City Rocks offered tours of their proposed gym and climbing area, which they said would occupy some 4,000 square feet within an elevator that is 190 feet tall at its highest point.

“There’s not much in the area,” said Brian Kruszka, 27, a Hamburg resident who said he often has to travel to find challenging climbs and rappelling opportunities. Kruszka is also helping create the Silo City Rocks facility.

“A lot of people don’t realize there is this sort of community here,” Kruszka said. “The adventuring community.”

Of the Boom Days unveiling, Kruszka expressed this hope: “I think it’s going to build interest – turn people into climbers.”

During the event, visitors learned about – and saw early incarnations of – some of the features that will fill the Silo City Rocks site, including “bouldering caves,” which are rooms in the elevator, some with low or sloping roofs, that will be equipped with handholds and footholds and turned into low-ceilinged climbing areas.

“Bouldering came from outside climbing, obviously. You’d top out at 15, 20 feet. With these ceilings, it’s like a natural bouldering cave,” said Cullen, pointing to concrete walls in the silo where some handholds have already been installed. “It’s perfect, really.”

Also shown to guests were places in the silos where “top-roping” spaces will be created, giving users the ability to climb long ropes toward a ceiling high above.

“One of our biggest motivations is to give people access to outdoor recreation in Buffalo,” said Cullen, who lived in Colorado and elsewhere for five years before returning to Buffalo.

Silo City Rocks proponents said that the facility aims to be one part of the larger fabric of activity in the Childs Street area.

Plans currently call for the center to operate something like a gym, with daily passes available as well as monthly memberships, said Cullen. He said future development at the facility might include a yoga studio, lounge, library, kids’ area and retail store.

The group has launched a Facebook page – which Cullen said has been getting a lot of attention – as well as an online fundraising campaign via Indiegogo.

“What’s cool about Silo City is, we’re really a small part of what’s going on here,” said Cullen.

Other founders of the facility include Jason Schwinger and Andy Minier.

Smith, the owner of the property, said that Silo City Rocks makes a great fit for the larger Silo City site.

“Silo City Rocks is about perfect, because it’s outdoor-focused, on the waterfront,” Smith said. “It’s about giving 28-year-olds a reason to stay around our fair city.”

Silo City Rocks aims to have a “soft opening” this summer, Cullen said. That will mean that parts of the site – likely some bouldering rooms and a rope-climbing area – will be available for use by the public.

After that, the group will continue to build momentum and add to its offerings, he said.

One goal Cullen said that Silo City Rocks hopes to achieve down the road a bit is the installation of a climbing area in the very tallest tower of the silo, which reaches 190 feet.

Most of the rest of the elevator is 120 feet high, he said.

If that 190-foot section were turned into a climbing venue, it would rival and maybe even surpass the current tallest man-made climb for enthusiasts, which is in Reno, Nev., he said.

Cullen jokes that the Silo City Rocks fans refer to that future climb with joking names that will have immediate relevance to Western New Yorkers:

“The 190” – or “The Skyway.”

Take your pick.