Ninja Warrior gym coming to Newton

Swinging time on the obstacle course

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  • Chris Rivera (left) will head up the weightlifting/powerlifting component of Skyland's Ninja Warrior while facility owner Chris Ennis (right) will be in charge of the Ninja warrior training. Here the men dangle from one of the obstacles at the training facility built by Ennis. Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • Ashley Smith, of Stillwater, tackles the "flying squirrel"

  • Chris Ennis, the owner of the new Skyland's Ninja Warrior Gym, shows how to conquer the ring obstacle

By Laurie Gordon

— Can a Ninja warrior breathe new life into a centuries-old building?

Apparently so. Recently, Chris Ennis approached John Hauck with an idea that was very outside the box for the landlord's warehouse space. Instead of renting it for storage as Hauck intended, Ennis proposed creating a Ninja Warrior gym where people could actually learn to “fly through the air with the greatest of ease.” The deal was sealed. The metamorphosis from empty space to obstacle-packed gym is nearly complete and soon, Skylands Ninja Warrior will open on Clinton Street, with June the target month.

American Ninja Warrior – a televised production that sees competitors try to get through challenging obstacles—has gained mainstream popularity and, Ennis said, people are looking for a place where they can train like a warrior. Ennis has competed in Ninja-style events for a number of years, and he got so into it that he was even one of those guys who tests the course for the TV show. His son, also named Chris Ennis, also got into it. There was just one problem: the closest place to train was an hour-and-a-half away.

“I was at a business job, kind of going through the motions with something I didn't like,” Ennis said. “Incrementally, I realized I didn't like what I was doing and had a burning to just kind of take a leap of faith and follow my passion to build a Ninja Warrior gym.”

With the securing of an investor, Christine Cyriacks from New York, he said sayonora to the corporate job and began his new journey.

First came the process of finding a place for his dream to come true. That's where Hauck came into play.

Managing Member of Darlington Heritage Properties, which owns the former Darlington Mills property on Mill Street at Clinton Street, Hauck could have done what most landlords do with warehouse space and rented it out for storage purposes, but Hauck wanted more for the space.

“[Ennis] approached me with this a bit out-there yet very intriguing idea of building a Ninja Warrior gym,” Hauck said. “I really wanted the building to be more than a warehouse. I wanted it to come alive and see people come through its doors again. I was happy to work with him.”

Now, the building that was once buzzing as a textile mill will be home to Ninja Warrior training. The training involves a lot of upper body strength, agility and great timing. Ninja gyms are a response to people's infatuation with American Ninja Warrior, an entertainment competition that is a spin off of the Japanese Sasuke. The show features hundreds of competitors attempting to complete a series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty.

“What happened was when people saw it on TV, they wanted to do it themselves,” Ennis said.

Ennis built all of the obstacles at Skylands Ninja Warrior himself. They include climbing, swinging, jumping, balance and lots of other challenges such as “The Flying Squirrel” where you have to jump off a mini trampoline, grab onto an apparatus and then swing yourself to the next in the series, and then the next, and the next.

“This sort of training is very unique and teaches strength, balance and discipline,” Ennis said. “In the future, it is my plan to create a Skylands Ninja Warrior Team of athletes and compete all over against other gyms.”

True Ninja Warrior gyms are hard to find, and the town is welcoming Ennis and the concept with open arms.

Newton's Mayor Wayne F. Levante is happy about the advent of this new training facility.

“[Ennis] had reached out to me and some of our professionals a few months prior to him going before the Planning Board for all approvals," Levante said. "Like [Ennis], we were all very excited about the opportunity for Newton to be the home for this type of establishment. It's unique, cutting edge, and people in our area, both young and old, are looking for an experience like what Skylands Ninja Warrior gym is offering.”

Regarding Hauck's decision to back such a facility the mayor said, “We've seen changes throughout the state and country in how former retail and industrial spaces are being converted and used in this economy. Our boards and other professionals realize this as well. So the vision of everyone, including Mr. Ennis and Mr. Hauck, is really inline with current market trends.”

He added, “The Mill Street location is a great space, centrally located with ample convenient parking, and from what I have heard, the environment has allowed Skylands Ninja Warrior to receive a very warm welcome from county residents and beyond.”

Kimberly Williams, Newton's community development director, said the town "always welcomes new concepts and is excited that Mr. Ennis has chosen the Town of Newton to develop his business. While Mr. Hauck could have certainly rented to another venue; The Town is happy that he decided to rent to a tenant who will bring additional visitors to the area. I met with Mr. Ennis in February and he explained to me that he would have a 'junior' section of the course where parents could host themed parties for their children. And, he explained that competitions may be held in the future thus bringing additional exposure to the hotel, stores and restaurants within the Town. “

Skylands Ninja Warrior isn't just a gym with a few obstacles in it. It's packed with top-notch creations to teach and test skills. The gym will feature group classes for kids, teens and adults, birthday parties and parties for any sport to celebrate by doing something different, aerial yoga (by Kate Teresi), private coaching, weight training, open gym and summer camps. When it comes to the parties, Ennis will be partnering with Dani Ciccotelli and Villa Capri, so “free time” plus training on the course and a competition among the party-goers can be followed by pizza. In addition to Ennis coaching, the gym has brought on McKinley Pierce, one of the top-ranked women American Ninja Warrior competitors in the country, who will oversee the Ninja Warrior training.

The powerlifting/weightlifting portion of the gym will be operated under the auspices of Chris Rivera, an exercise science graduate with eight years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach.

“Building strength will greatly compliment the Ninja Warrior gym,” he said. “My expertise is in bringing people to their goals using science-based, custom programming in the arenas of weightlifting and powerlifting.”

“We are also encouraging teams from anything from wrestling to lacrosse to soccer to basketball to swimming to any sport to come to us for some increased strength and agility though Ninja training,” Ennis said. “We are huge in promoting team building through the training that we do here.”

“It's going to be an amazing facility, and I'm thankful to everyone who has been a part of making this dream of mine become a reality,” Ennis said. “I look forward to helping adults and kids promote physical and mental strength through conquering obstacles and fears. We are eager to teach techniques from American Ninja Warrior veterans and help people gain the strength and the skill set required to tackle obstacle courses like the pros.” He added, “Here, people can enjoy bringing out their adventurous side. It's a great and fun mentality and a fantastic workout.”

Skylands Ninja Warrior is located at 44 Clinton Street in Newton. Follow news about its upcoming Grand Opening on Facebook at: For further information, you can also call (973) 756-7969.

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