2020 CBJ Gym List Awards

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2020 CBJ Gym List Awards
Climbing walls of G1 Climbing + Fitness, the second largest new gym to open in 2020, under construction in Broomfield, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of G1 Climbing + Fitness)

Saying that climbing gyms had a challenging year in 2020 feels like an understatement. It certainly does not tell the full story of the pandemic’s wrath on the industry; it fails to encapsulate the difficulties of temporary closures (and reopenings, and then reclosures), the hardship of gyms’ adoption of widespread mitigation measures, and the general anxiety that gym customers and staff struggled with throughout the year. The toils were prolonged, they were complicated, and they were often personal, as gyms are often inseparable from the climbing communities they foster. The 5.1 percent growth rate for U.S. gyms in 2020 reflected the hardships, as explained in our 2020 Gyms and Trends report.

 

So, for starters, let’s kick off the 2020 Gym List Awards by saying that every gym deserves sincere praise and applause for…well, for just chugging through 2020 and continuing to believe in climbing. Let’s also state the good news: The future of the industry still looks promising (44 new gyms opened in 2020, 9 more than in 2019, and 61 more gyms are planned to open in 2021). And most importantly for this year’s installment of CBJ Gym List Awards, gyms that had their grand openings in 2020 still managed to do impressive things during the pandemic year…some accomplishments will be celebrated here and now.

For further exploration of this data, be sure to check out the filters on the CBJ Gym Map to sort gym data in various ways. And without further ado, the 2020 CBJ Gym List Awards are as follows:

The Front South Main - Largest New Climbing Gym

Largest New Climbing Gym 2020
The Front South Main
Millcreek, UT

The newest addition to the Front Climbing Club family of gyms didn’t come onto the scene with the bang that was planned. Originally slated to host the 2020 Sport and Speed Open National Championships on March 13-14, the grand opening was delayed and the competition postponed (and eventually cancelled) due to the pandemic. Over the summer, South Main held its modified grand opening in a pandemic age instead, but the facility is no less impressive. Clocking in at 26,685 square feet of climbing surface—the most of any new gym in 2020—South Main includes an IFSC-regulation speed wall, roped walls up to 62 feet high, bouldering, a slew of fitness offerings, and additional projects in the works. “The Front Climbing Club has a rich heritage that I am proud to shoulder,” owner and CEO Dustin Buckthal said of the project. South Main is certainly continuing that legacy with its latest lifestyle climbing gym.

G1 Climbing + Fitness - 2nd Largest New Climbing Gym

Second Largest New Climbing Gym 2020
G1 Climbing + Fitness
Broomfield, CO

As in 2019, the difference between the largest and second largest new climbing gyms of 2020 seemed like another photo finish, but new information from the gym operators and wall manufacturers widened the gap to 2,000 square feet of climbing surface. And the gym that earned second-place honors—G1, with 24,684 square feet of climbing—has a lot to commend. The lead and top rope walls edge out at 58 feet tall, and G1 also boasts an IFSC speed climbing wall. They have a conference room, a Kilter Board, a Tension Board, and options for childcare. During G1’s construction, owner Jason Haas told CBJ that he wanted to create a gym that was essentially a “communal space, where people feel cared for and taken care of.” Seems like he has done just that.

Top Ten Largest New Climbing Gyms of 2020
(based on total climbing wall surface)

1st: The Front Climbing Club – South Main – Millcreek, UT – 26,685 sqft
2nd: G1 Climbing + Fitness – Broomfield, CO – 24,684 sqft
3rd: Mesa Rim – North City – San Marcos, CA – 22,671 sqft
4th: RoKC – Olathe – Olathe, KS – 20,000 sqft
5th (tie): Vertical View – Meridian, ID – 18,000 sqft
5th (tie): Stone Age – North – Albuquerque, NM – 18,000 sqft
7th (tie): The Riveter – Mills River, NC – 16,000 sqft
7th (tie): Gravity Vault – Brick – Brick, NJ – 16,000 sqft
9th: Climb So iLL – The Steel Shop – St Charles, MO – 15,243 sqft
10th: The Commons Climbing Gym – Boise, ID – 14,000 sqft

DBC North - Largest New Bouldering Gym

Largest New Bouldering Gym 2020
Denver Bouldering Club (“DBC North”)
Thornton, CO

The trend of bouldering gyms reached new heights in 2020. For the first time, 50 percent of new gyms in the U.S. were bouldering-focused facilities. Another interesting aspect of bouldering gym data for 2020 is that the largest new facility—DBC North—actually featured more square feet of climbing surface than the largest new bouldering gym from 2019. In total, DBC North’s climbing measures 15,000 square feet and is split between a lower level and an upper mezzanine designed to be an espresso bar. The gym is also dog-friendly, which doesn’t add to the square footage, but does seem like an accoutrement that would aid in the facility’s appeal on Colorado’s Front Range. “DBC North will be a testament to how far we’ve come as a gym focusing on good climbing and good community,” said Anthony Bruno, former General Manager of DBC, at the gym’s outset.

Top Ten Largest New Bouldering Gyms of 2020
(based on total climbing wall surface)

1st: Denver Bouldering Club – North – Thornton, CO – 15,000 sqft
2nd: Rock Solid Climbing – Tucson, AZ – 12,206 sqft
3rd (tie): Brooklyn Boulders – Lincoln Park – Chicago, IL – 11,500 sqft
3rd (tie): The Circuit – Bend – Bend, OR – 11,500 sqft
5th: Oso Climbing Gym – Dallas, TX – 11,000 sqft
6th: Synergy Climbing & Ninja – Chattanooga, TN – 10,000 sqft
7th: Planet Granite – Santa Clara – Santa Clara, CA – 9,346 sqft
8th: Crux Climbing Center – Central – Austin, TX – 9,000 sqft
9th: The Overlook – Atlanta, GA – 8,200 sqft
10th: State Climb – Culpeper, VA – 7,300 sqft

Vertical View - Tallest New Climbing Gym

Tallest New Climbing Gym of 2020
Vertical View
Meridian, ID

The walls of Vertical View rise as high as 65 feet from the floor. That not only means that the gym had the tallest indoor walls of any new gym for 2020, it means that Vertical View ranks among the dozen tallest North American gyms currently in operation. But in addition to offering four stories of climbing, the gym is a full-fitness facility and also provides speed climbing courses, yoga, and climber education classes. “We are stoked to offer world class climbing to the community here and also build that existing community by creating new climbers,” Tyler Pape, Vertical View’s Administrative Director, said of the gym project.

Top Ten Tallest New Climbing Gyms of 2020
(based on peak indoor climbing wall height)

1st: Vertical View – Meridian, ID – 65 ft
2nd: The Front Climbing Club – South Main – Millcreek, UT – 62 ft
3rd (tie): Frontier Climbing & Fitness – Sioux Falls, SD – 58 ft
3rd (tie): G1 Climbing + Fitness – Broomfield, CO – 58 ft
5th: Mesa Rim – North City – San Marcos, CA – 54 ft
6th (tie): Climb So iLL – The Steel Shop – St Charles, MO – 50 ft
6th (tie): RoKC – Olathe – Olathe, KS – 50 ft
8th: Gritstone Climbing and Fitness – Morganton, WV – 49 ft
9 (tie): The Commons Climbing Gym – Boise, ID – 45 ft
9 (tie): The Riveter – Mills River, NC – 45 ft

The Hive - Developer of the Year

Developer of the Year 2020
Andrew Coffey
The Hive

In 2019, one of the major developments of the year was the high number of expansion gyms that opened. 53 percent of new gyms that year were part of gym chains, and that year’s developer of the year―the developer with the most new gym openings―opened five new locations. By contrast, 39 percent of new gyms in 2020 were expansion gyms, and only one developer opened two new locations. Still, opening multiple new climbing gyms during a pandemic year is no small accomplishment, and all honors go to Andrew Coffey, owner of The Hive gyms in Canada.

Since opening his first bouldering-focused gym in 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Coffey has added four more facilities in Canada. Two more bouldering gyms with a “more well-rounded level of fitness,” according to the The Hive website, followed in 2014 and 2019―North Shore in North Vancouver and Surrey further east, respectively. Last year, The Hive added its first mixed facility (bouldering and roped climbing) in nearby Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Perhaps most impressive though was the expansion of the gym chain to far away Manitoba. The new bouldering gym in Winnipeg boasts 12,000 square feet of climbing surface, in addition to the climbing courses and fitness opportunities found across its locations. While the Winnipeg facility has remained closed at times when its counterparts in British Columbia have been allowed to reopen, Coffey expressed gratitude in operating the gym businesses in Canada throughout this period.

“One thing that has set us apart from the U.S. climbing gym market is that the Federal government has stepped up and supported businesses with some really strong measures that help cover partial costs for rent and wages,” says Coffey. “I have never been more grateful to be living and working in Canada. My heart goes out to all the businesses that are struggling without such support―I do hope you are able to see this through.”

To read more about how The Hive opened multiple new gyms during a pandemic and what distinguishes its gym communities, check out the full interview with Andrew Coffey.

Climbing Gym Developers with 2020 Expansion Gyms

The Gym List 2020

New U.S. Roped Climbing Gyms of 2020

RANK NAME LOCATION WALLS HEIGHT
1 The Front Climbing Club – South Main Millcreek – UT 26,685 sqft 62 ft
2 G1 Climbing + Fitness Broomfield – CO 24,684 sqft 58 ft
3 Mesa Rim – North City San Marcos – CA 22,671 sqft 54 ft
4 RoKC – Olathe Olathe – KS 20,000 sqft 50 ft
5 Vertical View Meridian – ID 18,000 sqft 65 ft
5 Stone Age – North Albuquerque – NM 18,000 sqft 42 ft
7 The Riveter Mills River – NC 16,000 sqft 45 ft
7 Gravity Vault – Brick Brick – NJ 16,000 sqft 38 ft
9 Climb So iLL – The Steel Shop St Charles – MO 15,243 sqft 50 ft
10 The Commons Climbing Gym Boise – ID 14,000 sqft 45 ft
11 Gritstone Climbing and Fitness Morganton – WV 13,500 sqft 49 ft
12 Latitude Climbing + Fitness – Virginia Beach Virginia Beach – VA 13,000 sqft 40 ft
13 Method Climbing + Fitness Newark – NJ 12,000 sqft 27 ft
13 Frontier Climbing & Fitness Sioux Falls – SD 12,000 sqft 58 ft
15 Vertical Horizons Climbing Gym Fort Smith – AR 10,000 sqft 35 ft
15 Sanctuary Rock Gym Seaside – CA 10,000 sqft 20 ft
15 Aiguille Rock Climbing Center Longwood – FL 10,000 sqft 30 ft
15 Climb Nittany Boalsburg – PA 10,000 sqft 42 ft
19 Inner Peaks – Matthews Matthews – NC 8,500 sqft 25 ft
20 High Steppe Climbing Center Yakima – WA 7,500 sqft 32 ft
21 Adventure Rock – Walker’s Point Milwaukee – WI 6,800 sqft 30 ft
22 Cornerstone Rock Gym Glen St. Mary – FL 6,000 sqft 40 ft

New U.S. Bouldering Gyms of 2020

RANK NAME LOCATION WALLS HEIGHT
1 Denver Bouldering Club – North Thornton – CO 15,000 sqft 15 ft
2 Rock Solid Climbing Tucson – AZ 12,206 sqft 16 ft
3 Brooklyn Boulders – Lincoln Park Chicago – IL 11,500 sqft 14 ft
3 The Circuit – Bend Bend – OR 11,500 sqft 17 ft
5 Oso Climbing Gym Dallas – TX 11,000 sqft 16 ft
6 Synergy Climbing & Ninja Chattanooga – TN 10,000 sqft 12 ft
7 Planet Granite – Santa Clara Santa Clara – CA 9,346 sqft 14 ft
8 Crux Climbing Center – Central Austin – TX 9,000 sqft 16 ft
9 The Overlook Atlanta – GA 8,200 sqft 15 ft
10 State Climb Culpeper – VA 7,300 sqft 16 ft
11 Blue Swan Boulders Orlando – FL 7,000 sqft 14 ft
12 Bigfoot Climbing Gym Morganton – NC 6,500 sqft 16 ft
13 High Point Climbing – Cleveland Cleveland – TN 4,134 sqft 14 ft
14 Climberz Tea – SD 3,500 sqft 16 ft
14 Insight Climbing & Movement Bremerton – WA 3,500 sqft 16 ft
16 Goat Fort Indoor Climbing Warren – PA 3,000 sqft 14 ft
16 Brimstone Boulders Hood River – OR 3,000 sqft 15 ft
18 Blocworks Edmond – OK 2,624 sqft 13 ft
19 Climb Cincy Cincinnati – OH 2,600 sqft 13 ft
20 Rock Bottom Climbing Hanover – PA 2,000 sqft 12 ft
21 Black Hills Basecamp Rapid City – SD 1,800 sqft 15 ft
22 Sunrise Bouldering Genseo – NY 1,200 sqft 13 ft

New Canadian Climbing Gyms of 2020

The Hive – PoCo Port Coquitlam – BC mixed
The Hive – Winnipeg Winnipeg – MB bouldering
East Peak Indoor Climbing Halifax – NS mixed
Seven Bays Bouldering – Bayers Lake Halifax – NS bouldering
Basecamp Climbing – Queen West Toronto – ON bouldering
Aspire Climbing – Whitby Whitby – ON mixed
Le Crux – Laval Laval – QC mixed
Café Bloc Montreal – QC bouldering
Hook South Shore Bouldering Sainte-Julie – QC bouldering

Behind the Data

This feature is intended to act as an extension of Climbing Business Journal’s annual Gyms and Trends report. The research and data collection for 2020 was done largely by Leif Coopman, Chris Ryan, Austin Lokey and Madeleine Eichorn. Much of the statistical analysis was done by CBJ’s Data Analyst, Theresa Phamduy, Ph.D., with writing and editorial duties shared by Scott Rennak, Joe Robinson and John Burgman. The data is proprietary to CBJ, and a further explanation of the methodology can be found in the 2019 Gyms and Trends report.

North American Climbing Gyms

CBJ is dedicated to researching and reporting accurately on the climbing gym industry in North America. Climbing gyms have been proliferating across the world since the early 1990s. The first gyms had flat walls and rudimentary holds, and often possessed inadequate air filtration, lighting, and landing zones. Modern climbing gyms, in contrast, often have vast open spaces with beautiful natural light, intricate wall designs and features, industrial HVAC, and are filled with bright and interesting shapes of plastic, fiberglass and wood. The industry has grown up, and modern climbing gyms now cater to a diverse and expanding clientele.

 


This article was updated on February 16, 2021, to reflect new data from the gym operators and wall manufacturers. All climbing facilities are encouraged to submit updates/corrections to your facility details here, or email simple edits to info@climbingbusinessjournal.com.