Indy Like a Local
Who is Thomas Bonifield?
A passionate climber who is director of routesetting at North Mass Boulder, a bouldering gym/fitness center/cafe near the Circle City Industrial Complex.
Are you an Indy native?
I was born and raised in Indianapolis. I left and went to Indiana University and came back to Indianapolis in 2012. I have been working in the customer service, rope access, and climbing industries since my return to Indianapolis.
What does your routesetting role at North Mass Boulder entail?
The director of routesetting role at North Mass Boulder is mostly customer service–based. I work with the owners, leadership team, routesetting team, and wall-maintenance team to curate and design a climbing experience. My role is comparable to that of a head chef in a restaurant. We often compare climbing gyms to restaurants, but instead of selling food, we are selling climbing. My role is to guide my team to design and provide the best experience possible for our guests. We want to meet everyone’s needs and challenge our guests in a mental and physical capacity. We want our guests’ experience to be fun and engaging. My role is to provide a vision and help my team execute that vision.
How did you get into that line of work?
I got into routesetting through my passion for climbing. I started working at a gym after college and was curious about routesetting. An opportunity opened up and, luckily, I was in the right place at the right time. Over time I gained more experience and started traveling to set regional-, divisional-, and national-level competitions across the country. It’s been an awesome experience being able to share my passion for climbing through routesetting for our climbing community.
What would you most like people to know about bouldering?
You can make it whatever you want it to be. You can use it as an exploration in movement to test your problem-solving skills. Bouldering challenges you mental and physically and is a great way to work out with friends.
You must be an active guy. Aside from North Mass Boulder, where else in Indy do you like to work up a sweat, indoors or out?
I live in Windsor Park and the Pogues Run Trail is fun to ride bikes on. It goes by the Circle City Industrial Complex, multiple parks, a bird sanctuary, and ends at an art and nature park so it has it all. I also like Southwestway Park to mountain bike, as well as the Frank and Judy O’Bannon Soccer Park for pick-up games.
Have you discovered any great climbing spots (outdoors, that is) around Indiana?
Muscatatuck State Park has fun limestone bouldering in North Vernon, Indiana. The park does a great job accommodating climbers and a beautiful place to hike around.
Can you share some of your favorite spots around the city?
I love everything in Windsor Park right now. Top Out Cafe for healthy eats. Kan-Kan Cinema for dinner and a movie. Beholder for date night. Amelia’s for pastries and bread. 8th Day Distillery for a cocktail. I also like going out of the neighborhood to La Margarita or Livery for some Latin flavors, and Siam House or Bodhi for Thai. My list could go on forever, but Bosphorus Istanbul Cafe is the last restaurant that I have to mention.
As for music venues, I like the Garfield Park amphitheater. It’s a nice outdoor space and it has an intimate feel. I think the First Friday events at the Circle City Industrial Complex, Murphy Art Center, and Stutz are all great ways to socialize and support local artists.
Where might you take out-of-town guests? Any must-dos for visitors?
Must-dos for visitors would include going to a Pacers game and/or the Indy 500. The Eiteljorg Museum is one of the best museums for indigenous art that I have been to. I think walking around Windsor Park, Mass Ave, Fountain Square, or Broad Ripple will give you good feel for Indianapolis and you’re bound to find a place for art, music, food, and drinks.