2023 CBJ Gym List Awards

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2023 CBJ Gym List Awards
2023 CBJ Gym List Awards
Photo of Central Rock Gym Chelsea before the opening set, courtesy of Cascade Specialty

[Editor’s note: The figures below were updated to include climbing facilities that opened in 2023 after the publish date. This had no effect on the awards. In tandem with this article, be sure to check out the full 2023 Gyms & Trends Report here and the Routesetting Trends of 2023 here.]

For the tenth straight year, over 40 climbing gyms opened across the United States, Canada and Mexico, with about 40% of that growth taking place since the pandemic hit in 2020. Despite the challenges that come with launching a new project in today’s economic environment, climbing gym and brand businesses and the people powering and enjoying them keep forging ahead and finding success. The CBJ Gym List recognizes only a couple handfuls of those businesses and crews, but the breadth of their work—ranging from British Columbia to Florida, Nuevo León to Newfoundland—is an indication that climbing is thriving in communities around the continent, and no doubt around the world.

Elevate Climbing Walls

This year, we are pleased to bring the Gym List awards to you sooner than ever. While 2023 isn’t over quite yet, December is always a time of reflection and celebration, and we couldn’t wait to crunch the numbers and pop the champagne with you. Below are the largest and tallest new climbing gyms and leading gym developers and suppliers from January to mid December, 2023. Congratulations to all the owners, builders, managers, setters, coaches, front desk staff and many other professionals who made it happen!

Scroll or click to see the following awardees:
Mesa Rim AustinArizona Bouldering ProjectLongmont Climbing CollectiveCentral Rock GymWalltopiaCascade SpecialtyFlashedRock Gym Pro

2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Tallest New Climbing Gym - Mesa Rim Austin
Photo of the main floor at Mesa Rim Austin, courtesy of Mesa Rim

Largest New Climbing Gym 2023
(based on total climbing wall surface)

Mesa Rim Austin
Austin, Texas

Since beginning as a single Southern California gym in 2010, Mesa Rim has added three more gyms in San Diego County and expanded into Nevada and, now, Texas. Mesa Rim Austin features 40,000 square feet of climbing surface, bringing home the 2023 Largest New Climbing Gym award with a margin of over 10,000 square feet. First announced in 2020, construction of the new gym began in 2021 following pandemic-related delays and was completed in time to host the 2023 USA Climbing National Team Trials and Paraclimbing National Championships in March. The 52,000-square-foot facility features 55-foot roped walls, a 15-meter speed wall and 16-foot bouldering walls built by EP Climbing, with flooring by Strati Climbing, in addition to dedicated training areas, a fitness center, yoga and fitness classes, adult climbing instruction and youth programming.

“While it was never our plan to build the largest new gym in the country, we’re certainly proud of the accomplishment!” says Hunter Brooks, Director of Marketing at Mesa Rim. “Our goal with this facility was to give the climbing community in Austin an opportunity to experience all styles of sport climbing, top roping and bouldering under one roof. Every single panel in the gym was intentionally designed—down to the last inch and angle degree—to compliment the topography around it, allow for optimal route setting opportunities, create smooth transitions between angles within each climb, and inspire joy through the exploration of movement across a wide variety of terrain…Huge shoutout to our amazing build team who worked day-in and day-out to turn this dream project into a reality, and to our incredible staff members fostering and cultivating the newest addition to our growing community here in Austin, Texas!”

Rockwerx

Top Ten Largest New Climbing Gyms of 2023
(based on total climbing wall surface)

1st – Mesa Rim Austin – Austin, TX – 40000 sqft
2nd (tie) – Longmont Climbing Collective – Longmont, CO – 27000 sqft
2nd (tie) – Sportrock Rio – Gaithersburg, MD – 27000 sqft
4th – Portland Rock Gym Beaverton – Portland, OR – 26500 sqft
5th – Bolder Elevated – Calgary, AB – 12500 sqft
6th – Latitude Climbing + Fitness – Hampton – Hampton, VA – 12000 sqft
7th – Adventus Climbing – Toledo, OH – 10217 sqft
8th – Odyssey Climbing + Fitness – Ashwaubenon, WI – 9500 sqft
9th – ASCEND Erie – Erie, PA – 9000 sqft
10th – Warehouse Rocks Climbing and Fitness – Abbottstown, PA – 6000 sqft

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2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Largest New Bouldering Gym - Tempe Bouldering Project
Photo of a bouldering area at the new Tempe gym, courtesy of Bouldering Project

Largest New Bouldering Gym 2023
(based on total climbing wall surface)

Arizona Bouldering Project
Tempe, Arizona

Bouldering Project (BP) has been on a rapid ascent in the last three years. First known as the Seattle Bouldering Project in 2011 before opening facilities in Austin and Minneapolis, BP doubled in size when it added three bouldering-focused gyms (Fremont, Upper Walls, Westgate) in the Seattle and Austin areas in 2021. In March 2022, BP gained three more locations and coast-to-coast status in acquiring Brooklyn Boulders gyms in Boston, Brooklyn and Washington D.C., then later opened a new facility in Salt Lake City and announced another Seattle gym is on the way. This year, BP completed gym number eleven and expanded into an eighth state.

The latest build in Tempe, Arizona, features 13,535 square feet of climbable surface on 17-foot boulders, with the walls and flooring all designed, manufactured and installed in-house by Bouldering Project Environments. The 50,400-square-foot facility provides space for a range of amenities, from yoga and fitness classes to youth programming and private instruction.

“We are thrilled to introduce the Bouldering Project to the Valley. We sought to create a space where the local community could find unprecedented access to healthy and engaging movement of the highest quality. The response from the climbing, yoga and fitness community has been incredible, and we are excited about what lies ahead,” says Kyle Wiggins, BP’s Arizona Market Director.

TACO Skin Sander from Chalk Cartel

Top Ten Largest New Bouldering Gyms of 2023
(based on total climbing wall surface)

1st – Tempe Bouldering Project – Tempe, AZ – 13535 sqft
2nd – Central Rock Gym – Orlando – Orlando, FL – 10000 sqft
3rd – Central Rock Gym – Tampa – Tampa, FL – 9000 sqft
4th – Central Rock Gym – Cambridge – Cambridge, MA – 8000 sqft
5th – MW Climbing Omaha – Omaha, NE – 7500 sqft
6th (tie) – APEX Climbing Gym (Indiana) – Mishawaka, IN – 7000 sqft
6th (tie) – Climb Kraft – Nashville, TN – 7000 sqft
8th – Délire Escalade – Lévis – Lévis, QC – 6400 sqft
9th (tie) – Central Rock Gym – West Hartford – West Hartford, CT – 5000 sqft
9th (tie) – Evolution Boulders – Manassas, VA – 5000 sqft

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2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Tallest New Climbing Gym - Longmont Climbing Collective
Photo of some of the indoor roped walls at the new Longmont gym, courtesy of Climbing Collective

Tallest New Climbing Gym 2023
(based on peak indoor climbing wall height)

Longmont Climbing Collective
Longmont, Colorado

In October, Longmont Climbing Collective (LCC) completed its move into a new facility in Longmont, Colorado, which boasts 60.5-foot walls, earning the gym the Tallest New Climbing Gym award of 2023. In the works since 2021, the 25,000-square-foot LCC gym with a 1,000-square-foot outdoor patio was designed as a meeting ground and event venue for climbers, artists, entertainers and educators alike. The gym’s climbing terrain spans 27,000 square feet across indoor roped and bouldering walls and an outdoor wall, built by Vertical Solutions, and a board room with a Kilter Board and MoonBoard. Other features at the facility include yoga and fitness options, a kids zone and a birthday party area. And a recovery room, which will include a sauna and two plunge pools, is coming soon.

“The new Climbing Collective gym is the facility that our community deserves,” says Mack Maier, co-owner of Climbing Collective. “We simply built the gym that we have always wanted, and it happened to have some pretty tall walls; we were not trying to get the tallest walls, we simply like long routes and it turned out that way. We think it’s a great facility and a welcome addition to the city of Longmont and surrounding areas.”

It ended up being an auspicious 2023 for Climbing Collective, which also acquired the nearby Wooden Mountain gym (now Loveland Climbing Collective) at the start of the year, just months after announcing another new location is on the way in Greeley, Colorado, opening in 2024.

Climbing Gym Management Series

Top Ten Tallest New Climbing Gyms of 2023
(based on peak indoor climbing wall height)

1st – Longmont Climbing Collective – Longmont, CO – 61 ft
2nd – Sportrock Rio – Gaithersburg, MD – 57 ft
3rd (tie) – Mesa Rim Austin – Austin, TX – 55 ft
3rd (tie) – Portland Rock Gym Beaverton – Portland, OR – 55 ft
5th – ASCEND Erie – Erie, PA – 52 ft
6th – Latitude Climbing + Fitness – Hampton – Hampton, VA – 48 ft
7th – Odyssey Climbing + Fitness – Ashwaubenon, WI – 47 ft
8th (tie) – Adventus Climbing – Toledo, OH – 40 ft
8th (tie) – Bolder Elevated – Calgary, AB – 40 ft
10th – Warehouse Rocks Climbing and Fitness – Abbottstown, PA – 30 ft

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2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Developer of the Year - Central Rock Gym
Photo of the new CRG bouldering-focused Orlando gym, courtesy of Central Rock Gym

Developer of the Year 2023
(based on new climbing gym locations)

Central Rock Gym

For the second year in a row, the Developer of the Year award goes to Central Rock Gym (CRG), the business’s third time winning the award. In 2023, CRG opened five new facilities, branching out of the Northeast for the first time with new locations in Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Altogether, the five gyms offer a combined +36,000 square feet of climbing surface, in addition to fitness and yoga amenities, and bring the total number of CRG gyms in the U.S. to 22. In fact, CRG is one of only two developers with over 20 climbing gyms in North America, and the only developer to open +20 climbing gyms on the continent solely through self-builds.

Founded in 2009 with its first gym opening in Worchester, Massachuesetts, owners Ed and Joe Hardy have steadily increased CRG’s footprint throughout the U.S., and three more gyms are expected to open next year in Troy (NY), Tampa and Miami (FL). In 2019, Joe told CBJ that the driving factor for CRG is “a deep, deep love for the sport of climbing, up and down our chain.”

“CRG continues to be super focused on finding communities where climbing has not yet flourished,” say Joe and Ed Hardy. “At the same time, we are always looking to find opportunities where we can add additional facilities that are close to existing gyms. This past year we added new locations close to our existing gyms in Manhattan, West Hartford (CT), and Cambridge (MA). We also expanded to new markets in Tampa and Orlando (FL). We think it’s a balance between providing more value to our current communities, while looking to find new opportunities. None of this would be possible without an incredible team of setters, managers, and youth program staff who are providing that foundation of community connection.”

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Climbing Gym Developers With New Locations in 2023

2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Wall Builder of the Year - Walltopia
Photo of Touchstone – The Oaks (opening in early 2024) by @oldmanmoon, courtesy of Walltopia

Climbing Gym Wall Builder of the Year 2023
(based on new climbing gym locations)

Walltopia

Walltopia again led the way for the most climbing wall builds in North America, supplying climbing terrain for 17.5 new gyms—14.5 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. The Climbing Gym Wall Builder of the Year award is Walltopia’s third, having topped the list ever since it began in 2021. In 2023, Walltopia walls were constructed at about 44% of new climbing gym builds in North America alone, totaling over 126,000 square feet of climbing surface. The global stats are even more impressive: Walltopia produced over 600,000 square feet of climbing at 104 new gyms spanning 6 continents and 33 countries worldwide, with more on the way.

Walltopia is nothing if not consistent with climbing wall development. Since CBJ started the Gym List awards in 2019, the Bulgaria-based company has supplied climbing surface for a Largest New Climbing Gym awardee three times, Largest New Bouldering Gym two times, and the Tallest New Climbing Gym four times. Walltopia also had a hand in three Developer of the Year awards, providing walls for all the new CRG and Movement gyms those years.

Also in 2023, Walltopia and ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder, Colorado, announced a new partnership, “joining forces to create dedicated climbing gyms exclusively designed for young climbers,” Ivaylo Penchev, CEO of Walltopia, said in the press release. And in June, Walltopia’s World Indoor Climbing Summit returned for a third edition, the first since the pandemic.

“We are honored to be recognized for our work,” says Adam Koberna, Walltopia USA President. “Thanks to our customers who have entrusted us with their vision and their dedication to growing the sport of climbing. Watching the Walltopia family grow over the years has been incredibly humbling and we are looking forward to another year of success for everyone in the industry.”

Kilter Board

Top Climbing Gym Wall Builders of 2023
(based on new climbing gym locations)

1st: Walltopia – 17.5 gyms
2nd: OnSite – 7 gyms
3rd: Vertical Solutions – 6 gyms
4th (tie): DÉLIRE – 3 gyms
4th (tie): EP Climbing – 3 gyms

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2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Flooring Installer of the Year - Cascade Specialty
Photo of a newly installed bouldering floor at CRG Chelsea, courtesy of Cascade Specialty

Climbing Gym Floor Installer of the Year 2023
(based on new climbing gym locations)

Cascade Specialty

After finishing second in the Climbing Gym Floor Installer of the Year award in 2021 and 2022, Cascade Specialty claimed the top honors this year. The Washington state-based company installed the flooring at 9 new climbing gyms across the U.S., from Oregon to Florida. These gyms include all five of the new CRG locations as well as the new Portland Rock Gym Beaverton and The Stronghold Echo Park expansions, in addition to two first-location gyms.

Operating out of Everett, Washington, Cascade Specialty came to fruition in 1999 when Mike Palmer “installed a new floor in his own facility,” then known as Cascade Crags, according to Cascade’s website. Since then, Palmer has been helping gym owners “install flooring solutions that are cost effective, durable, easily maintained, and have the safety of the climbers as their highest priority.” In 2024, Cascade Specialty is already confirmed as the flooring installer for two planned gyms in the U.S.

“Cascade Specialty LLC is proud to be one of the top suppliers to the climbing industry for the past 18 years,” says Palmer. “We have many loyal customers located all over North America, who depend on our expertise to keep their customers climbing!”

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2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Flooring Installer of the Year Runner Up - Flashed
Photo of a new bouldering floor installation at High Point Climbing – Lincoln Mill, courtesy of Flashed

Climbing Gym Floor Installer of the Year 2023 – Runner-Up
(based on new climbing gym locations)

Flashed

The Climbing Gym Floor Installer of the Year last year, Flashed earned its second Gym List award this year, finishing runner-up by the narrowest of margins. In 2023, Flashed installed the flooring for 8.5 new gyms—eight complete gyms, and one “half” gym, splitting the latter project with another brand. Flashed was the flooring supplier for new roped and bouldering-focused gyms throughout Canada and the U.S., completing projects from Saskatchewan to Alabama.

With roots as a small operation selling chalk balls and then crashpads and clothing from the founders’ basement, Flashed eventually padded its first commercial climbing gym back in 2010. Since then, the Canadian company has supplied the flooring for over 80 gyms and continued to develop its product line. This year, Flashed announced an Artist Crash Pad Collab Project, which involved partnering with various artists to design crashpads; Flashed and Cruxing in Color, for example, collaborated with local Denver artists on a new design, in an effort to increase artist visibility while producing flashy pads.

“The climbing community has always felt like a big family. Winning this award is a testament to all those who have put their trust in our products, and we are very thankful,” says Keith Nalepa, Sales/Office Manager at Flashed. “We are always striving to push and evolve, shifting with the demands and needs of the industry. Our curiosity has led us to develop tools and devices to more deeply understand impact attenuation and relationships between layers of foam. Or to our retail products, like partnering with the University of British Columbia to learn and understand climbing chalk. Our goal is to create products that encourage camaraderie, personal growth and high performance in an inclusive and responsible manner. Thank you for supporting us and enabling us to pursue these dreams.”

Capitan software

Top Climbing Gym Floor Installers of 2023
(based on new climbing gym locations)

1st: Cascade Specialty – 9 gyms
2nd: Flashed – 8.5 gyms
3rd: UCS – 5 gyms
4th (tie): Habit – 5 gyms
4th (tie): OnSite – 5 gyms
6th: ClimbMat – 4 gyms
7th: Strati Climbing – 3.5 gyms
8th (tie): Délire – 2 gyms
8th (tie): Revival – 2 gyms

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2023 CBJ Gym List Award - Management Software of the Year - Rock Gym Pro
Photo of the RGP software on multiple devices, courtesy of Rock Gym Pro

Climbing Gym Management Software of the Year 2023
(based on new climbing gym locations)

Rock Gym Pro

For the third year in a row and third time the award has been given, Rock Gym Pro (RGP) has won Climbing Gym Management Software of the Year, providing the CRM/POS system for 32 new gyms in North America—23 in the U.S., 8 in Canada, 1 in Mexico. RGP was chosen for all the new CRG locations, Mesa Rim Austin, and over a dozen other new expansion gyms.

Founded in 2008, RGP is in use at over 800 climbing gyms worldwide and, according to the RGP website, now has over 25 million unique users, 30 million documents stored, 100 million check-ins, and $2 billion in processed transactions. In 2023, RGP announced their integration with Stripe processing via RGP Stripe Custom, to help alleviate added expenses associated with credit card processing.

“It’s an honor for Rock Gym Pro to secure Climbing Business Journal’s Climbing Gym Management Software of the Year award for the third time,” says RGP Business Leader Laura Cole. “This recognition echoes our unwavering dedication to supporting the climbing industry, driven by our team’s roots as climbers and former gym owners. We are committed to continually enhancing our software to empower and uplift the indoor climbing community. This accolade reaffirms our pledge to provide innovative solutions and support to this incredible community.”

Climbing Gym Management Series

Top Climbing Gym Management Software of 2023
(based on new climbing gym locations)

1st: Rock Gym Pro – 32 gyms
2nd: Approach – 12 gyms

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The Hold Room

THE GYM LIST 2023

New U.S. Roped and Mixed Climbing Gyms of 2023

RANK NAME LOCATION WALLS HEIGHT
1 Mesa Rim Austin Austin, TX 40000 sqft 55 ft
2 (tie) Longmont Climbing Collective Longmont, CO 27000 sqft 61 ft
2 (tie) Sportrock Rio Gaithersburg, MD 27000 sqft 57 ft
4 Portland Rock Gym Beaverton Portland, OR 26500 sqft 55 ft
5 Latitude Climbing + Fitness – Hampton Hampton, VA 12000 sqft 48 ft
6 Adventus Climbing Toledo, OH 10217 sqft 40 ft
7 Odyssey Climbing + Fitness Ashwaubenon, WI 9500 sqft 47 ft
8 ASCEND Erie Erie, PA 9000 sqft 52 ft
9 Warehouse Rocks Climbing and Fitness Abbottstown, PA 6000 sqft 30 ft
10 Coeur Climbing Company Coeur d’Alene, ID 5990 sqft 24 ft
11 Hudson Boulders Latham, NY 5553 sqft 20 ft
12 The Crag – Franklin Franklin, TN 5000 sqft 25 ft

New U.S. Bouldering Gyms of 2023

RANK NAME LOCATION WALLS HEIGHT
1 Tempe Bouldering Project Tempe, AZ 13535 sqft 17 ft
2 Central Rock Gym – Orlando Orlando, FL 10000 sqft 15 ft
3 Central Rock Gym – Tampa Tampa, FL 9000 sqft 15 ft
4 Central Rock Gym – Cambridge Cambridge, MA 8000 sqft 15 ft
5 MW Climbing Omaha Omaha, NE 7500 sqft 15 ft
6 (tie) Climb Kraft Nashville, TN 7000 sqft 15 ft
6 (tie) APEX Climbing Gym (Indiana) Mishawaka, IN 7000 sqft 14 ft
8 (tie) Central Rock Gym – West Hartford West Hartford, CT 5000 sqft 15 ft
8 (tie) Evolution Boulders Manassas, VA 5000 sqft 16 ft
10 High Point Climbing – Lincoln Mill Huntsville, AL 4500 sqft 16 ft
11 The Stronghold Echo Park Los Angeles, CA 4300 sqft 16 ft
12 Central Rock Gym – Chelsea New York, NY 4000 sqft 15 ft
13 The Blok Climbing Co Fort Worth, TX 3750 sqft 16 ft
14 Black Hills Basecamp Rapid City, SD 3700 sqft 15 ft
15 Climb Conway Conway, AR 3500 sqft 16 ft
16 Appalachian Bouldering Center Bristol, TN 3250 sqft 16 ft
17 The Jug Climbing Redmond, OR 3000 sqft 14 ft
18 Boulder Bloc Gym Pompano Beach, FL 2864 sqft 15 ft
19 Capital Climbing Cayce Cayce, SC 2000 sqft 11 ft
20 Kona Cliffs Kailua-Kona, HI 1800 sqft 16 ft
21 Kick Rocks Tucson, AZ 1300 sqft 13 ft
22 Monadnock Climbing Gym Keene, NH 1200 sqft 12ft
23 (tie) The Pad – Santa Barbara – The BoardRoom Santa Barbara, CA 1000 sqft 13 ft
23 (tie) Dino Moves Nederland, CO 1000 sqft 12 ft
25 Rising Up Rock Gym Medina, OH 850 sqft 16 ft
26 Boardworks Bend, OR 750 sqft 13 ft

New Canadian Climbing Gyms of 2023

RANK NAME LOCATION TYPE WALLS HEIGHT
1 Bolder Elevated Calgary, AB ropes and bouldering wall 12500 sqft 40 ft
2 Délire Escalade – Lévis Lévis, QC bouldering wall 6400 sqft 16 ft
3 Altitude Gym – Orléans Orléans, ON bouldering wall 4600 sqft 15 ft
4 Bloc Shop – Mile-Ex Montréal, QC bouldering wall 4500 sqft 14 ft
5 Conquer Climbing Centre Brantford, ON bouldering wall 4000 sqft 18 ft
6 Reach Indoor Climbing Aurora, ON ropes and bouldering wall 3675 sqft 29 ft
7 Grip It Nelson Saskatoon, SK bouldering wall 3420 sqft 25 ft
8 Allez Up Mile End Montréal, QC bouldering wall 2500 sqft 15 ft
9 The Cove Bouldering and Cafe St. Johns, NL bouldering wall 1700 sqft 16 ft
10 Confluence Climbing Golden, BC bouldering wall 1344 sqft 14 ft

New Mexican Climbing Gyms of 2023

Pico Norte Climbing Tec Zone Monterrey, NL bouldering wall 500 sqft 12 ft

 

Eldorado Climbing

Behind the Data

This feature article is intended to serve as an extension of Climbing Business Journal’s annual Gyms and Trends report. The research and data collection for 2023 is proprietary to CBJ and was done largely by Naomi Stevens and Scott Rennak, with writing and editorial duties shared by Naomi Stevens, Joe Robinson and John Burgman. The full Gyms & Trends report for 2023 will be published early next year.

Climbing gym growth from 1990 from CBJ gym map

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 wooden grips. The industry has grown up, and modern climbing gyms now cater to a diverse and expanding clientele.

Harness Consulting