Climbing is a fast growing sport in today’s world, and because of that, climbing gyms are opening up at a faster rate than ever before. You may be thinking of opening a gym for many reasons; perhaps you’re a climber yourself and want your career to revolve around your favorite activity, or maybe you’re a savvy business person who understands the opportunities that lie within having a successful gym.
No matter who you are or what your motivation, your climbing gym business plan most certainly considers strategies for increasing your return on investment, as that is what will keep your doors open and your business thriving. Your climbing wall design will have one of the largest impacts on your ability to increase your return on investment right off the bat, and should be your primary focus in the beginning stages of constructing your climbing gym.
The Top 3 Ways Smart Climbing Wall Design Can Increase Your Return on Investment:
- Smart design works to increase and retain membership - If your climbing wall designs are “smart”, then your gym will work all on its own to increase and retain membership. So what does “smart” design look like?
Well, the first thing you need to do is avoid the temptation to make your gym full of awesome overhangs, cracks, and technical routes. Yes, these things certainly do have a place in your gym and you shouldn’t leave them on the sideline all together, but you don’t want the tough stuff dominating everything else. The majority of your climbing terrain should be friendly to beginner and novice climbers.
The reason for this is that the average person climbing at your gym is not going to be an expert; in fact, many if not most of them will be people who have never climbed before or who are just getting into the sport. It’s up to your gym to grow your region’s climbing community, and the way you’ll do that is by creating an environment that encourages progression through the ranks for beginners to work their way into intermediate and advanced routes.
It’s also a good idea to create “goals” for newer climbers. For example, perhaps on a vertical wall you add a small overhang that transitions back to vertical after you get past it. This provides your beginner climber with a challenge. It’s likely that if they’ve never climbed an overhang before, they won’t be successful their first try, but the goal will seem attainable, and they’ll continue to try until they complete the route. This will also motivate them to move onto the next challenging route and continue coming back to your facility.
- Smart design allows your programming to thrive - Programming is also a huge source of revenue for any climbing gym, and designing your climbing wall with programming in mind will help you increase that potential revenue.
One of the key things to think about when considering climbing wall design and revenue is the location of your programming wall. If you had to choose one of the following locations, where do you think the best place for your programming wall would be?
(A) By the entrance to the gym, in site of everyone in the facility
(B) In a separate area, where participants have complete privacy from the rest of the climbers at the gym
(C) In a place within your gym where participants have an intimate space, but partial views of the rest of the facility. If you chose C, then you’re right on the money. By being located within the climbing gym itself, you’re allowing your participants to scope out what your facility has to offer on their way to and from their class. By providing an intimate space, you give your participants a feeling of privacy; they don’t have to worry about an expert climber watching and judging them, and can feel free to ask questions and try new things in a safe space. By keeping their views partially open to other parts of the facility you are giving them a sneak peak to some awesome climbing that will inspire them to come back and try more. In scenario A, your participants never get to walk farther into your gym for the opportunity to see what you have to offer, and simultaneously they are constantly visible to the masses, which may give them a feeling of nervousness that they’re being watched and judged. In scenario B, your participants get to work in an intimate space away from the eyes of onlookers, but the only thing they get to experience is the programming wall; they’re never offered the chance to see what kind of terrain your main facility has. In scenario C, you get the best of both worlds; intimacy of a group setting, privacy from onlookers, and a tour of all the cool terrain you want to come back and try after class has ended. For this reason, smart placement of your programming area can encourage program participants to return and eventually upgrade to a full membership.
- Smart design will inspire and foster a climbing community - Sometimes, there’s something indescribable about a gym; something that just wants to make you come back for more, time and time again. This inexplicable urge is often spurred on by one thing; yes, you guessed it: your climbing wall design. “Sometimes you walk into a gym and are immediately presented with something beautiful and amazing,” says Dan Brennan. “You’re immediately confronted with this beautiful architectural piece, and climbing that looks fun, challenging, and that beckons you to come climb. That all has to do with climbing wall design.” And if anyone has the ability to compare climbing wall designs and talk about what really works, it’s Dan Brennan. As the National Sales Manager for Head Rush Technologies, makers of the TRUBLUE Auto Belay, Dan has been all over the country and visited climbing facilities in all their forms; from gyms to recreation centers, university climbing walls, and camps, Dan has seen it all. Climbers agree – there’s something alluring about a well designed, well maintained gym that makes you return time and time again. Your aesthetics, your architectural choices, the range of terrain types on your wall, and changing your routes often are all part of the smart design that will increase your ROI. The more excited your patrons are about your design and what you have to offer, the more likely they are to return – and to bring a friend next time.
For more information on increasing your ROI, check out our resources page where you can find webinars and downloads to help you design a climbing wall and write your climbing gym business plan. Don’t forget you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for all the latest news, updates, and events.
Written by: Megan Barros on October 18th, 2013