Fort Worth, Texas
Specs: The Blök, a bouldering-focused facility, is expected to open this fall in Fort Worth, Texas, after multiple years of planning. Skyler Brooks, The Blök’s founder and co-owner, is heading the project alongside his wife, Vanessa Brooks, and parents, Tammy and Clint Brooks. The idea to open a gym came to Skyler pre-pandemic; he had climbed on and off for years but didn’t pursue the sport as a sole passion until 2019. At the time, Skyler was climbing at Flowstone Climbing in Redlands, California, and became close to the gym’s owners, Joel Rocha and Jason Jackman. The grassroots, independent gym feel he experienced there became the impetus behind The Blök’s design, with additional inspiration coming from stops at other walls around the country.
While residing in California, the Brooks family visited Fort Worth and “fell in love” with the city, Skyler said. Skyler and Vanessa found not only was it a great place to raise their young daughter, but that the Fort Worth market had the potential for another climbing facility. They sold their homes, packed up their lives in California, and moved to Texas, knowing the equity they gained from the sale would be enough to cover the down payment on a commercial loan.
The gym has been in development for over three years, but it wasn’t until July 2022 that The Blök received financing. According to Skyler, the process of trying to secure funding was lengthy. Several lenders with whom they spoke did not know what indoor climbing was, and landlords were apprehensive due to the team’s lack of experience operating climbing facilities. The process included months of “endless phone calls, emails and questions” with landlords and lenders, contributing to what felt like “the longest job interview” of the Brooks’ lives. Eventually, the owners found a location on a busy street in proximity to downtown Fort Worth and Texas Christian University, with a shopping area nearby. The standalone building with a big parking lot—reserved for The Blök climbers—“lends itself to the environment we wanted to have,” said Skyler, and should allow the gym “to host events and not be disruptive to other tenants in the building or have big parking issues.”
Phase 1 of the gym’s opening, set to be completed this fall, will include a fitness and training room, recovery room with a sauna and cold plunge tub, and retail offerings. As for the climbing, one of the planned walls is a World-Cup-style competition wall affectionately named “Comptown,” a play on Fort Worth’s nickname “Cowtown.” The gym will also have a 12×12-foot Kilter Board, something that wasn’t in the initial plans but was added following requests from community members. The ownership team is incorporating a collaborative process into the Phase 2 design as well, using a customer input survey to inform the tentative 2,500-square-foot expansion. “All sorts of things are on the table, and we’ll gather feedback from our members throughout the course of the first year,” Skyler explained.
Besides focusing on details like stocking the gym with “the newest shapes, to keep everything interesting,” Skyler also hopes to implement “the level of personability” he experienced at Flowstone. “[Owners] Jason and Joel were always the guys at the front desk,” he described. “It didn’t matter if you were there at eight o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday or nine o’clock at night on a Saturday…That level of presence from the ownership goes a long way.”
Walls: Vertical Solutions
CRM Software: Approach
In Their Words: “Self-improvement and climbing progression are at the forefront of our priorities for the atmosphere we are trying to cultivate at The Blök. From attracting a highly pedigreed Director of Routesetting to reinvesting a large amount of money into our holds inventory, we want to ensure our climbers have a space to improve, both personally and competitively…We wanted to pack as much variety and quality climbing we could into our footprint, and with monthly turnover of all the sets on our wall we plan to keep the climbing fresh for even the most dedicated climbers.” – Skyler Brooks, founder and co-owner of The Blök
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