RoKC-Climbing to New Heights 6

North Kansas City welcomes a new kind of challenge

Sometimes the passions that you harbor as a kid stick around for a while. For Boy Scout, Army officer and rock climbing enthusiast Andrew Potter, he found that his passion for the summit has turned into a thriving business in the heart of North Kansas City.

Potter and his brother, Frank, are the founders and owners of RoKC, a new climbing gym in downtown North Kansas City. Located at 1501 Howell Street in a building that was originally built to construct tanks and later to rebuild trains, the 15,000 square feet of space now houses a series of 40-foot walls with climbing routes that change on a regular basis. The gym also offers a bouldering room with lower elevation climbs that don’t require ‘roping in’. A gym area allows members to strength train or even take a yoga class to maximize their flexibility, something that comes in handy when the perfect chicken head (a type of hand hold) is just out of reach.

The gym is set up as a training facility for the experienced climber and the novice alike. All climbers are taught how to properly harness up for safety but for those wishing to advance their skills, the gym also offers training classes in top rope belaying, lead belaying and climbing. Sound complicated? Don’t worry. The staff is made up of enthusiasts that are excited to bring the uninitiated into the fold. Equipment is available for rent by the day or a pro shop can help to set up those that want to own their own equipment.

For Potter, climbing has always been a part of his life, from the time that he started when his family traveled from base to base with his father, a career Army veteran, to learning more while in the Boy Scouts to when he and a friend started the climbing club at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. While most of his climbing was indoors throughout high school, in college, he started climbing outdoors in a natural setting. At one point he was climbing three to five days a week and leading trips around the area.

Potter joined the Army after college, with the idea that he would make that a career, but soon found that his true calling was in the civilian world, teaching the leadership skills that he gained in the military. While trying to figure out how to do that and make a living, he continued climbing wherever he was stationed. His passion quickly became a vocation and he started looking into the feasibility of starting a climbing gym of his own.

“I quickly realized that I didn’t want to make the Army a 20-year career, but I still wanted to do something that I loved to do but I also wanted a way to serve others, coming from the service aspect of the Army. There’s no way that I would be able to truly enjoy what I was doing if I was only doing it for myself or a paycheck. My main passion is leadership and helping people to grow,” says Potter.

Breaking into the leadership as a career business is tough though, as Potter quickly found out. Using climbing as the medium, he found the best way to serve and help others while teaching valuable life skills. His gym’s all-encompassing approach to a singular sport is a testament to the foresight of his vision.

In addition to climbing for fun, the gym is a place for team building events, climbing camps for kids, and those wanting to find new ways to push themselves physically. While climbing outdoors safely requires a partner in order to belay each other, at the gym, an auto belay system means that solo climbers can come at any time during the gym’s extensive hours and pit him or herself against the wall and nothing but the wall.

Climbing is a sport that offers equal opportunity for young and old, male or female, to learn trust, agility and how to make the most of what you have in any moment. For more information, visit