Torres said he is concerned about the new competition but hopes his gym's focus on parkour, tricking and Ninja warrior training will differentiate it from Urban Evolution.

McConnell said he looked at 20 facilities in Baltimore before settling on the empty warehouse space off Eastern Avenue between Rosedale and Dundalk because of the size and the price for a five-year lease.

It took a month and a half just to clean the floor and paint over the rusted beams supporting the roof. He hosted a party for graffiti artists to paint the walls. McConnell put down rubber mats — at a cost of $16,000, he said — and began building the obstacles. The back portion of the facility has been set aside for what he's dubbed urban fit, and there are pull-up bars, ropes to climb and free weights available.

A 32-year-old Denton native, McConnell previously worked in the family business as an agricultural consultant, crisscrossing Maryland's Eastern Shore examining crops for infestations and disease.

His interest in parkour began seven years ago when he watched the French film "District B13," which includes chase scenes in which the protagonist escapes by jumping through tight spaces, scaling walls and flipping past pursuers. Soon McConnell was driving an hour each way from his Easton home to Washington to train with groups there that had began practicing parkour at the Silver Spring Metro station. The day after his first session, he was so sore he couldn't walk.

After training for several years, he became friends with Salil Maniktahla, who founded Urban Evolution in Alexandria.

McConnell began observing how the business worked. But it wasn't until he sought a place closer to home to train and ended up joining the cross-fit movement two years ago that he began believing he could run his own gym. He became a cross-fit instructor, which kindled a desire he's had since he was 12-years-old.

"I've always wanted to teach, but I wanted a situation where they wanted to be there," he said. "They're invested, and then you seen them get it, the look on their eyes when they say, 'Whoa.' That's my dream and why I'm here."

chris.korman@baltsun.com

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