It is a monumental effort to bring a new climbing gym into a community. Go ask the owners and managers driving the climbing business forward. You will hear countless stories of delayed permits, failed inspections and surprise expenses. Building a climbing gym is a big challenge, even if you’ve done it many times before.
That is why CBJ is giving out its first ever Gym List Awards alongside this year’s Gyms & Trends report: to recognize and reward the hard effort it takes to open the indoor climbing gyms that push our boundaries forward. These visionaries are defining what will be possible tomorrow.
One comment we hear all the time: “gyms keep getting larger”. It’s a factor that drives development timelines, and may have contributed to the lower gym growth rate in 2019. Thus, for this year’s Gym List Awards we examined the total climbing surface area of new roped climbing and bouldering facilities (as opposed to the square footage of the interior floor space) and also compared maximum wall height, and lastly identified the gym developer who opened the most new gyms in 2019. Later this year, our popular gym map will have filters to sort by these data points, and our future reports will provide further analysis of this aspect of gym growth.
Largest New Climbing Gym 2019
Clocking in at 25,000 square feet of climbing surface area, Summit Plano takes the crown as Largest New Climbing Gym 2019 and was the second-tallest mixed gym to open last year, with rope walls reaching 55 feet. Summit Plano is now the eighth and largest location of the Summit Climbing, Yoga & Fitness brand. It is also currently the largest climbing gym in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The entire facility has a blueprint of 32,000 square feet, which includes 20,000 square feet of rope climbing surface and 5,000 square feet of bouldering surface, a fitness area, yoga studio and a section specifically for kids’ climbing.
High Point Climbing and Fitness
Second Largest New Climbing Gym 2019
In very close second place was High Point Huntsville. In fact we thought they were tied for first after they both reported to have 25,000 of climbing, and we even reached out to Walltopia to break the tie since they built both gyms. However, we quickly remembered from our review earlier this year that High Point prides themselves on their outdoor walls, and a portion of Huntsville’s 25,000 square feet is exposed to the elements. By nature that square footage has limited accessibility compared to indoor spaces, and after conferring with several of our industry partners, we decided that served as a viable tie-breaker.
Top Ten Largest New Climbing Gyms 2019
1st – Summit Plano (Plano, TX) – 25,000sqft
2nd – High Point Climbing – Huntsville (Huntsville, AL) – 25,000sqft
3rd – Reach Climbing Gym (Bridgeport, PA) – 23,000sqft
4th – Central Rock – Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) – 22,000sqft
5th – Cliffs of Callowhill (Philadelphia, PA) – 20,857sqft
6th (tie) – Whetstone Climbing (Fort Collins, CO) – 20,000sqft
6th (tie) Central Rock – Rochester (Rochester, NY) – 20,000sqft
6th (tie) Mosaic Climbing (Cincinnati, OH) – 20,000sqft
9th – Vertical World – North (Lynnwood, WA) – 19,000sqft
10th – Central Rock – Stoneham (Stoneham, MA) – 16,000sqft
Planet Granite Fountain Valley
Fountain Valley, CA
Largest New Bouldering Gym 2019
Featuring 12,500 square feet of bouldering surface area, Planet Granite Fountain Valley in California earns the title of Largest New Bouldering Gym 2019. As El Cap’s 16th gym and 6th Planet Granite location, Fountain Valley features multiple training and campus boards, cardio machines, locker rooms, saunas, work spaces, a gear retail area and a yoga studio. Planet Granite’s Fountain Valley location was the sole new gym opening of the El Cap brand in 2019 (El Cap also acquired the Movement Climbing & Fitness chain of gyms).
Top Ten Largest New Bouldering Gyms 2019
1st – Planet Granite – Fountain Valley (Fountain Valley, CA) – 12,500sqft
2nd – Sequence Climbing (Kansas City, MO) – 10,000sqft
3rd – The Spot Denver (Denver, CO) – 8,000sqft
4th – The Proving Ground (Normal, IL) – 6,500sqft
5th (tie) – Long Beach Rising Climbing Gym (Long Beach, CA) – 5,000sqft
6th (tie) – Central Rock – Beverly (Boston, MA) – 5,000sqft
7th – Flowstone Climbing (Redlands, CA) – 4,500sqft
8th (tie) – Central Rock – Waltham (Waltham, MA) – 4,000sqft
8th (tie) – Climb Iowa – East Village (Des Moines, IA) – 3,000sqft
8th (tie) – CLYM (Somerset, KY) – 3,000sqft
8th (tie) – Ascend – Youngstown (Youngstown, OH) – 3,000sqft
Tallest New Climbing Gym 2019
Reaching a lofty 58 feet from the flooring, Reach Climbing in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania takes home the award for Tallest New Climbing Gym 2019. It’s their first location, but don’t expect it to be the last. Reach Climbing offers 58-foot-tall walls for roped climbing (as well as a 15-meter-tall regulation speed wall) and a separate bouldering section. Weights and yoga are also offered, and the gym features a community space for work or lounging. The gym’s website notes that its mission is “to build an exciting community for rock climbers and gym-goers alike.”
Top Ten Tallest New Climbing Gyms 2019
1st – Reach Climbing Gym (Bridgeport, PA) – 58ft
2nd – Summit Plano (Plano, TX) – 55ft
3rd – Mosaic Climbing (Cincinnati, OH) – 55ft
4th – High Point Climbing – Huntsville (Huntsville, AL) – 49ft
5th (tie) – Vertical World – North (Lynnwood, WA) – 48ft
5th (tie) – First Ascent – Peoria (Peoria, IL) – 48ft
5th (tie) – Climb Bentonville (Bentonville, AR) – 48ft
8th (tie) – Central Rock – Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) – 45ft
8th (tie) – Central Rock – Rochester (Rochester, NY) – 45ft
8th (tie) – Central Rock – Stoneham (Stoneham, MA) – 45ft
8th (tie) – Climb Time of Oakley (Cincinnati, OH) – 45ft
Central Rock Gyms
Joe and Ed Hardy
Developers of the Year 2019
This category was the major reason we began the Gym List Awards. To our knowledge, what happened in 2019 has never happened in North America before. Central Rock quietly opened five new climbing gyms last year (3 mixed and 2 bouldering gyms). Altogether, the total climbing surface Central Rock introduced in 2019 across its new facilities equaled 67,000 square feet. Most of these gyms also offer yoga and general fitness classes, weights and cardio equipment, and a host of instructional programs for beginner climbers.
Not only that, Central Rock opened four gyms the previous two years, so this once small climbing gym brand built 9 new climbing gyms in the past 3 years. They concluded 2019 with 15 locations after averaging 1.5 new additions each year since they first opened the doors of their Worchester location in 2009.
We are pleased to recognize Joe and Ed Hardy of Central Rock as Climbing Gym Developers of the Year 2019! We reached out to Joe Hardy to learn his secrets…
CBJ: How did you pull off 5 gym openings in one year?
JH: Anyone who has developed climbing gyms, or real estate in general, knows that hitting a time table can be extremely difficult. We actually set out to open 4 gyms in 2018 and 4 gyms in 2019. However, as different hurdles presented themselves and several project timelines were shifted, we ended up opening 1 gym in December of 2017, 2 in 2018, and 5 in 2019.
CBJ: What were the biggest challenges?
JH: Anytime you have 8 gyms to open, organization becomes a huge key to success. At various points in the process we had gyms that were about to open, gyms that were newly opened, gyms that were in planning, and gyms that were receiving materials. Tasks that are normally difficult with 1 gym opening, like setting, get much more difficult when you are opening 5 gyms in 5 months.
CBJ: What’s easier now with your scale?
JH: That’s a great question, and not really how we think about things. What makes things easier is having a team that you trust and a team that has been tested and works well together. We have the benefit of very low turnover and working with a team that has been together for a decade or longer in some cases. This has given us the confidence to take on greater challenges.
CBJ: Anything exciting coming at Central that you can tell CBJ readers?
JH: We have several projects in the pipeline, some are expansions of existing gyms, and some are brand new locations.
CBJ: What drives CRG?
JH: A deep, deep love for the sport of climbing, up and down our chain.
The Gym List 2019
These are the U.S. and Canadian climbing gyms that opened their doors in 2019.
New U.S. Roped Climbing Gyms of 2019
|1||Summit Plano||Plano, TX||25,000sqft||55ft|
|2||High Point Climbing – Huntsville||Huntsville, AL||25,000sqft||49ft|
|3||Reach Climbing Gym||Bridgeport, PA||23,000sqft||58ft|
|4||Central Rock – Buffalo||Buffalo, NY||22,000sqft||45ft|
|5||Cliffs of Callowhill||Philadelphia, PA||20,857sqft||35ft|
|6||Whetstone Climbing||Fort Collins, CO||20,000sqft||40ft|
|6||Central Rock – Rochester||Rochester, NY||20,000sqft||45ft|
|6||Mosaic Climbing||Cincinnati, OH||20,000sqft||55ft|
|9||Vertical World – North||Lynnwood, WA||19,000sqft||48ft|
|10||Central Rock – Stoneham||Stoneham, MA||16,000sqft||45ft|
|11||MetroRock – Littleton||Littleton, MA||15,000sqft||40ft|
|12||First Ascent – Peoria||Peoria, IL||14,000sqft||48ft|
|13||Shaker Rocks||Shaker Heights, OH||13,500sqft||40ft|
|14||Climb Bentonville||Bentonville, AR||13,000sqft||48ft|
|15||Climb Time of Oakley||Cincinnati, OH||11,000sqft||45ft|
|16||Triangle Rock Club – Durham||Durham, NC||9,950sqft||20ft|
|17||Risen Rock||Bossier, LA||9,000sqft||35ft|
|19||Climbing Cafe||Terre Haute, IN||4,000sqft||16ft|
|20||EVO Kids||Louisville, CO||1,540sqft||20ft|
New U.S. Bouldering Gyms of 2019
|1||Planet Granite – Fountain Valley||Fountain Valley, CA||12,500sqft||14ft|
|2||Sequence Climbing||Kansas City, MO||10,000sqft||16ft|
|3||The Spot Denver||Denver, CO||8,000sqft||18ft|
|4||The Proving Ground||Normal, IL||6,500sqft||18ft|
|5||Long Beach Rising Climbing Gym||Long Beach, CA||5,000sqft||15ft|
|5||Central Rock – Beverly||Boston, MA||5,000sqft||15ft|
|7||Flowstone Climbing||Redlands, CA||4,500sqft||16ft|
|8||Central Rock – Waltham||Waltham, MA||4,000sqft||13ft|
|9||Climb Iowa – East Village||Des Moines, IA||3,000sqft||15ft|
|9||Ascend – Youngstown||Youngstown, OH||3,000sqft||16ft|
|12||El Bloque||San Juan, PR||2,000sqft||13ft|
|13||Deadpoint Bouldering and Fitness||Powells Point, NC||1,500sqft||15ft|
|14||Basecamp Bouldering||Ouray, CO||800sqft||13ft|
New Canadian Climbing Gyms 2019
|Wip Climbing||Courtenay, BC||bouldering|
|Flux Climbing||Rossland, BC||bouldering|
|Gym of Rock||Salmon Arm, BC||bouldering|
|The Hive Surrey||Surrey, BC||bouldering|
|Fredericton Bouldering Co-op||Fredericton, NB||bouldering|
|Pinnacle Indoor Climbing||Clarington, ON||mixed|
|Hub Climbing Mississauga||Mississauga, ON||mixed|
|Gravity Climbing Gym||St Catharines, ON||bouldering|
|Grand River Rocks Waterloo||Waterloo, ON||bouldering|
|Le Relief||Thetford Mines, QC||mixed|
Behind the Data
Climbing Business Journal is dedicated to researching and reporting 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, boring holds and terrible air, light, and landings. Modern climbing gyms have vast open spaces with beautiful natural light, intricate wall designs, industrial HVAC and are filled with bright and interesting blobs of plastic, fiberglass and wood. The industry has grown up, and modern climbing gyms now cater to a diverse and expanding clientele.
The data powering our Gyms and Trends report is an industry resource we have been developing since 2013. It’s a never-ending process of adding new gym projects and updating records when gyms renovate, expand, move, sell or close. Over the years many people have contributed to this body of research, including Mike Helt, Marlowe Kulley, Scott Rennak, Jamie Strong and especially Jon Lachelt who built and still maintains our master list. We make this original research available to the public through our gym map, and exports are also now available to top members.
Climbing Business Journal is an independent news outlet dedicated to covering the indoor climbing industry. Here you will find the latest coverage of climbing industry news, gym developments, industry best practices, risk management, climbing competitions, youth coaching and routesetting. Have an article idea? CBJ loves to hear from readers like you!