Futurist Climbing Flooring & Mats: A Long-Play Partnership

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Fresh Futurist flooring at First Ascent Climbing & Fitness - Humboldt Park in Chicago.
Fresh Futurist flooring at First Ascent Climbing & Fitness – Humboldt Park in Chicago.
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Futurist customers are noticing that when they hire Futurist they get an excellent product and service. “Many commercial climbing gym clients have struggled with flooring and come to us to purchase their third or fourth flooring system,” said Futurist Climbing Flooring & Mats, Inc. president, Timy Fairfield.  “What we are starting to see is that experienced multi-facility climbing gym operators eventually become tired of wrestling with their climbing flooring systems and start to seek service-backed superior products.” The future of flooring is here, in fact it’s been here for years.

The Futurist Story: Let’s Not Reinvent the Wheel

Fairfield began competition climbing at a young age and matured into a professional rock climber; he is a 12-year veteran of the US National Competition Climbing Team. Ten years ago, he and business partner Ernest Coletta started Futurist Climbing Consultants, a company that advises on gym design and operation, because they care about the direction the industry takes as the sport grows.

As Fairfield and Coletta’s work with gyms deepened, they recognized the importance of quality flooring to the overall function and feel of a gym and the profound effect quality flooring has on climber safety, confidence, and longevity. Deciding that the market left something to be desired, Futurist Climbing Consultants branched into a separate second business, Futurist Climbing Flooring & Mats, which focuses on product design, technology development, manufacturing, and installation of gym flooring for indoor roped climbing, bouldering, and training areas in commercial, institutional, and private facilities.

“When we set out to develop climbing flooring, we did not want to reinvent padded floors or introduce bouldering flooring from consumer crash pads,” Fairfield said. Instead, they partnered with one of the largest gymnastics manufacturers in North America, which had 35 years of experience. “Working with them put us ahead in terms of quality, speed of delivery, clarity of material selection, and manufacturing precision.”

Building upon technology already at use in gymnastics, martial arts, and track and field, Futurist was able to develop flooring that advanced the industry’s safety guidelines. The company then devised a way to produce and install flooring quickly. The company has now been in business for ten years and has been responsible for a number of firsts in the climbing flooring industry.

“The way bouldering is evolving towards more gymnastic and dynamic climbing means higher falls, more varied body positions in the air, and more radical landing positions,” Fairfield said. “For that, you need good flooring.” Good flooring starts with comfort and safety for climbers. Good flooring also is good business.

Product: A Surface for Radical Landing Positions

Futurist offers stable, single layer foam floors with vinyl covers and minimal seams. Carpet can be added over the vinyl for increased durability. They will not consider any design that incorporates drag mats. Futurist climbing flooring products are tested by an independent third party company, Sports Labs USA.  Sports Labs has contracts with the NFL, FIFA North America, USA Track & Field, and conducts testing for gymnastics products. They are also experienced in evaluating products for athlete safety.

Futurist mats supporting climbers at Mesa Rim Climbing & Fitness.

Although there are no enforceable US climbing flooring standards, Futurist voluntarily follows the European and UK standards and has adhered to their own strict parameters in pursuit of establishing their community standard in over 100 commercial and institutional installations nationwide to date. One of these community standards is a 1 inch of foam pad thickness per 1 foot of fall height parameter, which was taken from gymnastics safety standards. According to Futurist, the company was the first flooring manufacturer in the industry to advocate this guideline. An EU standard they follow is the definitions of fall zones, of which there is no known US standard.

All of Futurist’s products are pre-fabricated offsite in the USA by their experienced manufacturer, which enables floors to be installed 3-5 times faster than the industry average. Futurist staff generally installs 1,500 – 2,000 square feet of bouldering flooring per day. “We aren’t going to move in and set up shop with a sewing machine in our clients’ facilities,” Fairfield said. This limits the disruption to a gym’s business, allowing facilities to remain open more days during installation or maintenance.

Futurist installers are fully briefed and trained on the unique details of each job, ensuring a smooth installation. The staff are known for being efficient, courteous, and professional. Many of them have been with Futurist from the beginning and have a deep understanding of flooring systems.

From the moment a customer calls, Futurist pays attention to the customer’s experience of the entire process—understanding their flooring options, financing flooring, and the installation process. The Futurist philosophy is that the customer deserves transparency in every aspect of their purchase.

Precision: No Need for Accurate Blueprints

The Leica BLK360 imaging laser scanner used by Futurist.

In order to produce flooring offsite that fits each gym’s specific dimensions, extremely precise measurements are required. If a measurement is just slightly off, components will need to be reordered or rebuilt, installation will take longer, and the cost will be higher to the client. Also many buildings do not have accurate blueprints. Futurist solved these problems with more precise measurements by becoming the first flooring company to implement measurement by laser scanning, according to Futurist. The company uses a high-speed 3D laser cloud point scanner that measures millions of points three dimensionality. This device is set in several places throughout a facility and takes detailed scans of the entire space. Futurist uses this data to accurately design and fabricate flooring that fits perfectly when installed. The cloud point scanner is small (think French press) and is shipped to clients who scan their own interiors and then ship it back.

Futurist professional installers are detail-oriented, which customers consistently value. “We absolutely love our new flooring,” said Kristin Gloystein from University of Oregon. “It looks beautiful and is a tremendous upgrade to our facility….. The small detail work and care with things like anchoring and edging makes it perform just as well as the day it was put in, even after months of use.”

Pricing: Extended Service & Financing

Gym floors receive a lot of wear and tear, especially with increasing gym popularity. Floors need to be replaced far more often than walls. “Unlike climbing walls, the climbing flooring supply partnership is a long play rather than a one-time procurement decision,” Fairfield said. Futurist developed flooring with premium materials that are meant to last, and because of that, the company offers what Fairfield says is the longest warranty on foam in the industry: 5 years. Floors that perform and last provide good value to the gym. Futurist also provides an optional extended service and maintenance plan that warranties beyond the foam to all the materials in the flooring system.

Futurist flooring ready for bouldering at Triangle Rock Club – Durham.

Futurist offers a unique financing option: 100% financing to qualified clients up to half a million dollars, and this can be used for more than one gym at a time. If a gym chain owns three facilities, all three can be financed on one loan at a lower interest rate, and Futurist delivers all three floors. Financing requires purchasing the extended service plan so that the product will be inspected and maintained to meet the same duration as the term of the loan.

“Triangle Rock Club was one of Futurist’s first customers to participate in the 100% financing option. This was a tremendous benefit,” said Joel Graybeal, the managing partner of Triangle Rock Club in North Carolina. “Futurist’s expertise in climbing flooring systems and their commitment to professional and timely installs has definitely helped us better serve our customers, which has in turn helped us grow faster.”

Futurist believes in improving the value to climbing gym owners and operators, improving the customer experience, and reducing injuries to climbers. “Futurist is service based, not sales based,” said Fairfield. “When we entered this market, we weren’t interested in producing the cheapest flooring. We were interested in producing the best.”

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This story was paid for and produced by the sponsor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.