Greg Carlin wants to make fitness fun at his new Play: CLE (photos)

January 18, 2018 GMT

Greg Carlin wants to make fitness fun at his new Play: CLE (photos)

Greg Carlin opened Play:CLE in Avon on Dec. 2 to serve up fitness and fun.

Cleveland creds: from Parma and Strongsville; lifelong local except for nine years in Athens, O.

Currently lives: Rocky River

Age: 40

Schooling: Strongsville High, bachelor’s and master’s from Ohio University

Family: wife, Robin; two daughters

Favorite locally owned restaurants: Momocho, El Carnicero, Jack Flaps, Prosperity Social Club, Tastebuds, Plank Road Tavern

Are you related to the late comedian George Carlin?

Greg: No relation that I know of. But I could swear just as well as he could.

How do you say the second part of “Play: CLE?”

Greg: I pronounce it C-L-E. Some people say “Clee.”

I see all kinds of colorful stuff here to climb and zip and swing on, including a giant Rubik’s cube. What’s the idea?

Greg: I call it an indoor adventure park. It’s a cross section of fun and fitness. We’re trying to promote physical activity and fitness and give you a full-body workout that’s fun and social.

It’s not competing against rock gyms or traditional fitness centers or bowling alleys or trampoline parks or Ray’s MTB [Mountain Bikes] or training centers like T3 Performance, which just opened on the other side of I-90.

It’s not an amusement park. Nobody’s being carried. They’re doing the work themselves.

It’s as much about social engagement or community. People of different sizes, ages, athletic abilities can all be comfortable and not separated. We’re getting ready to put out fitness classes and competitions.

There’s a bar and dining area with a clear view of your friends and family. You can go really healthy there or let yourself go. We’ve got a full liquor license.

Can customers drink and climb?

Greg: This is not a bar to come get loaded. This is about enjoying yourself. We’ve trained our staff to watch. We haven’t had any incidents yet.

Where’d you get the idea for this place?

I do ropes and couldn’t find a place indoors. I couldn’t find anything like this in the entire country.

Why put it in Avon?

Greg: We started looking in central Cleveland and kept going further out. To build new would have been about twice as costly and taken twice the time. We needed high ceilings. This one’s 45 feet high. We’ve got just under 26,000 feet. We removed an interior wall. We have access right off the highway.

Cleveland’s not just a single city or location It’s a mindset.

Where do customers come from?

Greg: We’ve had Pittsburgh, Columbus, Akron, Canton, Toledo, Detroit.

How old do they have to be?

Greg: There’s not a set minimum age. We generally recommend 6, 7 years old. On the zipline, you’ve got to be a minimum of 60 pounds. On the ropes course, your hands need to reach 5-foot-6 inches high.

I saw a long line at your ticket booth. Business busy?

Greg: More than I ever anticipated. Anywhere from a couple hundred people during a weekday to 1000, 1500 on a weekend,

Clevelanders are really supportive of local businesses. There’s a relatability and a willingness to help. I never found somebody too busy to meet for coffee and talk about what they do.

Nobody’s a stranger here. You always know somebody who knows somebody.

Have the cold and snow hurt or helped?

Greg: The worse the weather, the more people want to keep active. We’ve been opening even when schools are closed because of the weather.

Surveys show that lots of locals are more fat than fit.

Greg: There’s truth to that. But we’ve seen that people have a genuine interest in being active.

How big’s your staff?

Greg: Just over 50, some part-time, some full.

What’d you do before Play: CLE?

Greg: I spent about nine years in Athens. a professor and I started a consulting business. We would help small and mid-size businesses. I got to work with everything from a tea company to biotech. I even helped start a company called the Fur Peace Ranch, a guitar camp, for Jorma Kaukonen, the lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane. It still exists today.

I moved back here to Rocky River in ’03. My wife got a job with the Ohio Turnpike here. I took a position with Transilwrap, a plastic manufacturing company. I was also an investor in a new brewery downtown: Brick and Barrel.

I spend time with JumpStart. It’s a nonprofit organization. Its mission is around supporting and enriching entrepreneurship in Northeast Ohio.

How do you like River?

Greg: We love it. We have the best of all worlds. We’re minutes from downtown. We spend a lot of time in Cleveland neighborhoods. We have access to the lake. We’re down in the Metroparks constantly.

Where else do you hang out?

We go to Edgewater Live in the summer. It’s phenomenal what the Metroparks have done there.

Love the Museum of Natural History; the new space outside is outstanding. I love Peninsula and the bike trail and Szalay’s Farm, especially for roasted corn, and Whipp’s Ledges to the south. I’m a skier; I like Boston Mills and Brandywine.

We’re huge sports fans. You’ll find us at Cavs games, Indians games. But I gave up my Browns season tickets.

One win in two years didn’t thrill you?

Greg: What disappointed me is their lack of experiences for fans. The Indians have batting cages and social areas like the District.

Favorite local movie?

Greg: Even though a lot of it wasn’t shot here, I love “Major League.” It’s a definition of who we were then and even now.

Favorite local band?

Greg: My wife and I saw the Black Keys in ’02 at the Lime Spider in Akron with maybe 20 other people. We’ve seen them just about every time they’ve been back in town since.

Do you hope for more Play spaces someday? Like a Play: C’BUS or Play: CHI?

Greg: Absolutely.

Play: CLE is at 38525 Chester Rd., Avon, 440-695-3565, playcle.com. It’s open 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays and by appointment for private events on Mondays.