Before the Phoenix Rock Gym opened in 1992, the only "rock gyms" in these parts were the boulders and crags strewn about the desert. Rock climbing was done mostly by hardcores who didn't mind the heat, rattlesnakes, and cholla barbs sticking in shins from unplanned night descents down a mountain. Thanks to the PRG, rock climbing in metro Phoenix became something everyone could try. Suddenly, climbing wasn't just about risky thrills and blowing out forearms, but also about pizza parties and little kids having fun — which turned out to be fantastic for the future of climbing.
Kids exposed to the sport on the PRG's 30-foot-high climbing walls grew up to conquer Yosemite's El Capitan, and then they began taking their own kids to the gym. Other rock gyms opened as climbing took off as a mainstream sport nationwide, and the PRG kept competitive by opening a second bouldering area, adding a lead-climbing room and making its existing walls more challenging and fresh-looking.
PRG's longevity is partially owed to owner Paul Diefenderfer, who's good at both climbing and running a business, and to the friendly and helpful staff members he's hired. But the real secret is the community of fans and climbers who love the place and keep coming back over the years.