The Climbing Gym Rush Hits Canada

Photo: archdaily.com
Photo: archdaily.com

It’s a known fact that the Canadians are the nicest people in the world. But when it comes to the business of selling climbing, the Canadians do not hold back and are as aggressive as wolves on wall street.

Canada’s eastern half is showing the rest of N. America that people love climbing and are willing to pay for it. They are also showing what a truely competitive market looks like. The cities of Toronto and Montreal are serving up a total of 19 climbing facilities with many being mere kilometers from each other. With all this competition among climbing companies it should make developers squeamish to open new facilities but 4 new gyms are opening in 2014, which just goes to show that Canadian climbers are up for a good bout of competition.

Montreal

Montreal has 1.6 million people packed into 430 square kilometers. Four of the five area climbing gyms are located within the city proper for a spread of 107 gyms per square Kilometer. This includes Canada’s largest gym, Centre d’Escalade Horizon Roc with 27,000 sq ft of climbing.

In the fall of 2013 In the Quebec city of Montreal a former sugar silo was turned into an award winning architectural wonder. Inside was built a modern climbing gym and one of Canada’s best new facilities.

Allez Up, which had been operating a climbing facility in Montreal, up-sized when they purchased the the old Redpath sugar refinery silos. The new $5 million facility is 13,000 square feet and is more than your typical silo climbing. The developers built a proper climbing gym along side of the silos and in doing so won the prestigious Grands Prix du Design Project of the Year for 2013.

Photo: inhabitat.com
Photo: inhabitat.com

Later this year Montreal will get its newest facility, a bouldering-only gym called the Bloc Shop, which will have 10,000 square feet of climbing built by Walltopia.

Toronto

The Toronto metro area is already the heart of indoor climbing in Canada with 14 commercial climbing centers in a metro area of 6 million people. Just for comparison, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington DC metro areas each have an equal number of people and about the same access to outdoor climbing but not nearly the same number of climbing gyms.

In 2014 there will be two new bouldering gyms coming to Toronto: Hub Climbing which will open a bouldering-only facility and Boulderz Climbing will add their second location in the close-in city of Etobicoke.

Photo: Hub Climbing
Photo: Hub Climbing

What makes Toronto, at 630 sq kilometers (240 sq miles), interesting is not the number of gyms but the close proximity in which all these gyms operate. In the city proper there are 2.5 million people. If a customer lived in midtown Toronto they would have access to about 10 gyms within a 25 min or less drive. That’s a climbing gym for every 15 square miles. No other area of N. America and perhaps even the world has as many climbing gyms in such a limited amount of space.

For the last two decades the first-generation of climbing gyms in these two areas have enjoyed a comfortable market share and easy access to millions of potential climbers.  Only time will tell what will happen to both of these markets as new players move into town.

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