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CBJ press releases are written by the sponsor and do not represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.

Sportrock Plans Return to Maryland With New Full-Service Gym

Construction of the new Sportrock full-service gym
Sportrock Climbing Centers is working on a new mixed-discipline gym expected to open this fall near the gym’s original DMV location that closed 17 years ago. (All images courtesy of Sportrock Climbing Centers)

Sportrock Climbing Centers Gaithersburg, Maryland

Specs: Sportrock Climbing Centers, a DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area climbing gym operator, recently announced a planned expansion into Gaithersburg, Maryland. According to Jeffrey Shor, the Director of Marketing at Sportrock, the founders of Sportrock met while training at one of the original indoor climbing walls in the U.S., affectionately known as Zich’s Garage. Zich’s parents allowed their son Steve to talk them into letting him and his friends cover their detached garage in Chevy Chase with plywood and glue-on rocks to create a low-tech climbing wall for training during the damp D.C.-area winters. Eventually the glue was replaced with t-nuts, the rocks with early climbing holds, and the climbers started establishing first ascents at the New River Gorge and other nearby crags. “The demand outgrew the space,” Sportrock’s website details, leading to the opening of the first Sportrock location in Rockville, Maryland, in 1994. Although expansion wasn’t the operators’ original goal, Sportrock eventually opened additional gyms in the neighboring Virginia suburbs of Alexandria and Sterling, and those facilities have both been expanded multiple times. In 2006, the original Rockville location closed when Sportrock lost the lease. Since the closure, the business has been looking for a suitable Maryland location. With a planned opening of the Gaithersburg location at the end of 2023, the owners see coming back to Maryland “as a full circle moment,” Shor said.
Digital Climbing Holds
The 50,000-square-foot Gaithersburg facility will be mixed-discipline, like the Sterling and Alexandria facilities, and will feature 55-foot roped walls and 15,000 square feet of bouldering surface. Built in the Rio Lakefront Shopping Center, the gym will be retrofitted to a former sports hall. A training board, fitness equipment and climbing options will be built over former basketball and racquetball courts, and some of the boulders will be built inside a drained Olympic swimming pool. “It’s such a cool thing to walk into a space knowing it used to be something else and that the climbing has been seamlessly integrated into the space while still referencing what it used to be,” Shor said. “We’re leaving up some of the old pool tiles, and we’ll play on some of the ‘no diving’ signage. These elements that allude to what the place used to be and build upon the story is something we’re really excited about.”
The new bouldering walls within the drained swimming pool
Some of the boulders at the Sportrock gym will be built within a drained Olympic-size swimming pool, with the ability to top out on one of the features.
Moving forward since the COVID-related closures, Shor described Sportrock as committed to opening a new location, and the Rio Lakefront Shopping Center—a mixed-use retail space that has natural foot traffic and ample parking—fit the bill. “Sportrock has an active pipeline for new locations, and we are incredibly focused on solidifying our footprint in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area,” Shor stated. “It’s where we want to stay and build a strong position to set the company up to sustain itself for the long term. And we have an active pipeline for new locations beyond Rio.”
Climbing Gym Management Series
Shor said Sportrock’s nearly 30 years of operation has been guided by the company’s four pillars they call its “R.O.C.K”—routesetting, originality, community and knowledge—and a big part of the first pillar has been investing in the gym’s routesetting team. Vice President of Facilities & Routesetting Jeremy Hardin, for example, is a USAC L5 setter with experience setting national and international championship events, and he recently chiefed a 2023 Open Bouldering Nationals event. The gym also just signed Jeremy Ho to their setting team, another renowned L5 routesetter. “All of the decision making in the company comes back to those cornerstones,” Shor summarized. He encouraged gym owners, especially those newer to the industry, to “decide what their values are, move towards those values, and use those values to inform decision making.”
Some of the new roped walls overlooking the lakefront
In addition to the bouldering, the new Sportrock location will have 55-foot roped walls overlooking the Rio lakefront, as well as a variety of fitness and training amenities.
Walls: Walltopia Flooring: Strati CRM Software: RGP Website: Instagram: @sportrock In Their Words: “Since I became President in 2005, Sportrock has not deviated from who we are: climbing gyms For Climbers, By Climbers. We stay true to who we are—the local climbing gym focused on great routesetting, authenticity, a community orientation, and a place for climbers to practice, train and develop their skills as rock climbers—and we always will. We’re active members in our communities, we climb at our gyms, and it’s a palpable sense that you get walking through the facilities and being part of the communities.” – Lillian Chao-Quinlan, Executive Chairperson of Sportrock’s Board of Directors

It’s Bold Climbing Q1 Preordering time!

It’s Q1 preorder time!

image of climber in Bern world championships Get all the shapes in your favorite colors. Order by September 27th.

The NEW Bold website is here!

And it’s a lovely one! To place a preorder just order what you want — no need to limit yourself to what’s in stock. You can choose any shape, from any brand, in any color. Make sure to create a wholesale account to get gym discounts. And don’t forget to get that order in by September 27. What’s this Q1 Preorder thing? Each quarter we bring in big stock shipments from our brands. Place your order before September 27th and it will get a free ride over the Atlantic! You will receive these shapes in Q1 2024 (January – March). Choose ANY of your favorite macros, volumes, colors, and textures. It doesn’t matter what we have in stock. Timelines: 360 produced shapes should arrive to you by December (at the latest March). Blocz produced shapes should arrive to you in January (at the latest March). * If you have a certain deadline contact us for more details. How to order? Order any shape on our website and we will take care of the rest. You will receive these shapes in Q1 2024 (January – March). On the website shopping cart you can choose to have all your shapes/products shipped together or seperately when available. Email for more info. Deadline September 27th! Order Now
CBJ press releases are written by the sponsor and do not represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.

Workers Unionizing at Vertical Endeavors

The workers outside Vertical Endeavors
Workers at Vertical Endeavors climbing gyms in Minnesota as well as Nicros are the latest climbing industry workers to pursue unionization, which has become an evolving trend in the industry. (Photo courtesy of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 663)
A press release dated August 25 announced that workers at Vertical Endeavors are forming a union. The press release specified that the workers “signed and submitted cards to the National Labor Relations Board to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers.” The stated areas of focus in the unionization effort are “livable wages, better working conditions, and…a seat at the table to be able to turn these ideas into reality.” Vertical Endeavors, as a brand, spans seven entities—six climbing gyms (five in Minnesota, one in Illinois) and wall and hold manufacturer Nicros. At the time of the press release, Vertical Endeavors had yet to officially recognize the union.
Trango Holds Pardners
Increased unionization has been a noticeable trend in the climbing and outdoor industries in recent years, and union activity in general has been on the rise nationwide, with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reporting a substantial uptick in union representation petitions in 2022 and the first half of 2023. In the climbing gym industry, specifically, workers at Movement Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, made headlines last year by forming the first-ever climbing gym union in the United States; since then, workers at several other gyms have followed suit with similar efforts, including workers at VITAL gyms in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York, who saw their unions certified by the NLRB in November and July. Stay tuned to CBJ for more updates regarding unionization in the climbing industry.

Make Next Year Your Best Ever

Make Next Year Your Best Ever - Webinar

Annually revisiting planning and budgets for the coming year is an essential step to creating a sustainable business.

Make next year your best year ever by building a plan with your colleagues that will bring clarity and alignment to the team’s work as well as empower everyone’s performance. In this session we will cover how to collectively build an annual roadmap that will keep your organization aligned to what matters most. Ready to learn more? Join us Thursday, September 21st at 11:00am MDT for “Make Next Year Your Best Ever”. This is the latest webinar in our Climbing Gym Management Series with host Gavin Heverly of Rise Above Consulting. CBJ Members: RSVP Here For Free Access** Not a Member? Purchase Access Here for $59
Climbing Gym Management Series

Miss our previous webinars?

No, you didn’t! Recordings of our earlier sessions are accessible 24/7 with a Plus or Premium membership or individual purchases of $59. Here’s what some attendees said: “There were definitely a lot of takeaways, which we are already implementing into our processes.” Andrew Kozak, Vice President, Sportrock “Fantastic webinar! We’re going to share with other staff who couldn’t attend.” Patrick Bodnar, Marketing Manager, The Spot “Really well done and put together nicely!” “Dense with information.” More webinar excerpts here **Live webinars are offered as a FREE member benefit to staff of CBJ member businesses at the Biz level and above. Each staff member must RSVP, although managers can RSVP for multiple staff. The on-demand video recordings are available to staff at Plus or Premium member businesses and individual purchasers. Questions about accessing these recordings? Email us at Not a member yet? No problem, RSVP and be sure to enroll 48hrs before each webinar:

Previous webinars

Build Programs Your Customers Will Love Sales Strategies To Launch Strong And Keep Growing Building Loyalty Through Customer Service Design Hiring and Retaining Your All-Star Team Setting Your Culture Up For Success Launching Your First Climbing Gym

Climb Insider: setter podcasts and innovative products

image of routesetter putting hold on wall

Just a few thoughts

An interesting mix of new stuff this week. Great links for setters – podcasts, a video, a photo contest, new shapes. A deep dive on neuroplasticity. CEC kicks off it’s season. And two very cool Kickstarters that met their goal but it’s not too late to support. See The Freshest Job Posts Here

Community & Culture

Digital Climbing Holds

Comp Scene

For Routesetters

Training Tips

Coach at The Spot – Climbing Jobs Weekly 2023 September 7

image of the spot lousiville CBJ hosts the most active job board for climbing businesses and organizations. Below are the latest posts from this past week…
  Comp Team Coach Elite Team Coach The Spot  Colorado “Looking for an exciting opportunity to share your passion for climbing and shape the next generation of champions? Look no further than The Spot Gym! We’re seeking experienced climbing coaches to join our team and help us take our competitive climbing programs to the next level.”
Climbing Gym Management Series


How to List Education on a Resume in 2023 By Eric Ciechanowski “Including the year you graduated and earned your degree is optional. Adding the year hints at how old you are, which can lead to hiring bias issues. You should skip the graduation year if you’re over 40+ years old. You should include the expected graduation year if you’re working on a degree but have yet to graduate.” Read the full article here


See all current jobs // Post your job FT = full time PT = part time
Assistant Manager at High Point Huntsville, AL FT – manager
Head Coach at Alta Gilbert, AZ FT – coach
Routesetter at Movement San Francisco, CA FT – routesetter
Floor Manager at Gripstone Colorado Springs, CO FT – manager
Comp Team Coach at The Spot Golden, CO PT – coach
Gym Director at Movement Golden, CO FT – manager
Elite Team Coach at The Spot Louisville, CO PT – coach
Head Routesetter at Bigfoot Morganton, NC FT – routesetter
Head Routesetter/Assistant Coach at Gravity Vault Chatham, NJ FT – coach
Head Setter/Assistant Coach at Gravity Vault Chatham, NJ FT – coach
Assistant Head Setter and Comp Team Coach at Gravity Hamilton, ON FT – coach, routesetter
Director of SRPI at Sportrock Alexandria, VA FT – coach, manager

Career Centers of Climbing Industry

NAMETYPELOCATION Fund - CO Rock - WI Climbing Adventure Fitness - CA Alpine Club - CO Climbing - OH, PA Studio - CO Collective - CO Project (pick location) - MN, TX, UT, WA Climbing Centre - AB Rock Gym - CT, FL, MA, NY, RI - QC Climbing - CO - Louisville Climbing - OR - Bend / Kumiki / Groperz / eXpression - MN Climbing - IL, PA Grotto - ON - Guelph Rush Technologies // TRUBLUE - CO Point Climbing & Fitness - AL, TN - ON - Milton Climbing Centre - ON - London - OR - Bend - MA, NY, VT - TX, UT, WA Gyms - CA, CO, IL, MD, OR, TX, VA Architecture - COèresproductCanada - QC Climbing - PA - Philipsburg Experiences - VA - MD, VA Age - NM - Albuquerque Front - UT Gravity Vault - CA, NJ, NY, PA North Face Pad - CA, NV Spot - CO // Tenaya - CO - MA Rock Club (choose location) - NC, VA - CO (jobs in UK) Kingdom Solutions // Habit // Proxy // Pebble - UT World - WA - CA, NY, WA Climbing - MO

Introducing Greenholds, EP Climbing’s New Partner!

Meet the future of Green Climbing!

At EP Climbing, we’re delighted to announce that we’ve entered into a partnership with Greenholds, the creator of a groundbreaking, environmentally friendly solution for climbing holds. Greenholds’ circular system responds to the need for sustainability in climbing walls and provides a solution for gyms, schools and local communities looking to reduce their carbon footprint. As a pioneering market leader in the world of indoor climbing, we’re constantly looking to the future, so joining Greenholds on its mission to make sportsclimbing more sustainable was an easy decision to make. image of routesetter putting greenhold on wall We’re excited to be involved in this new generation of climbing holds, beginning with both training and downclimbing holds, which are 100% recyclable and made in the Netherlands using raw materials from waste streams. This collaboration will see EP Climbing and Greenholds join forces to spread the word of sustainability. We believe that it’s crucial to improve our impact and we see this partnership as an exciting opportunity to drive forward sustainability. GREENHOLDS’ PRODUCT Get ready to discover the fruit of years of research into materials and engineering! These wear-resistant, lightweight and easy-to-clean climbing holds deliver both high-end performance and a solution that protects the planet. image of climber stepping on greenholds POSITIVE REVIEWS FROM CLIMBERS AND OWNERS Following extensive testing in several climbing gyms over the past two years, they have received very positive reviews from climbers and owners. We believe that these new-generation holds have the power to inject some “green” into our industry! image of greenholds WIN-WIN SOLUTION FOR BOTH SIDES And, because it’s all about reducing the carbon footprint, you can return your used holds to us, which will then be reused as raw materials to be fed back into the production loop – a win for both business and the environment. This system clearly demonstrates that it is possible to produce holds sustainably. As if that wasn’t enough of an incentive, when you return your used holds you’ll get a discount on your new ones. image of holding greenholds WHEN CAN YOU TRY THEM OUT? EP Climbing and Greenholds will be attending several trade events together this autumn:
  • The ABC Conference in Rotherham (UK) on 14 and 15 September
  • Salon de l’Escalade in Grenoble (France) on 29 and 30 September
  • Vertical Pro in Friedrichshafen (Germany) on 24 and 25 November
Join us at our stand to find out more about this truly outstanding innovation for sustainability. Find Out More
CBJ press releases are written by the sponsor and do not represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.

Routesetting in the Age of Social Media – CBJ Podcast With Stefanie Myr

CBJ Podcast with Stefanie Myr
Image by Climbing Business Journal; all photos courtesy of Stefanie Myr
Today’s guest is Stefanie Myr, a climber of almost a decade and a routesetter for just as long. Myr is currently the head setter at Climb Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington. She began her setting career volunteering at the local YMCA before joining the Climb Tacoma staff. In addition to routesetting, Myr also manages the gym and coaches the youth team. If you’re wondering why she sounds so familiar, it’s probably because you’ve come across an Instagram account she founded and co-manages, called Expensive Boulders. In today’s wide-ranging conversation, Myr talks about social media’s impact on routesetting, aesthetics versus function, her philosophy and approach, and, of course, rock climbing. Thank you Kilter and Trango for your support!


00:00:00 – Intro 00:01:53 – The Expensive Boulders Instagram account 00:06:40 – Initial goals of the account and its evolution 00:15:45 – Representation of routesetting on social media 00:21:07 – How does this representation of routesetting impact routesetters? 00:29:03 – Focusing on aesthetics 00:32:14 – Setting advice surrounding social media 00:43:52 – Evolution of Myr’s setting philosophy over time 00:48:13 – Myr’s mentors 00:56:55 – Training a new setter 01:04:38 – Setting harder than you climb

Abridged Transcript

CHEN: I’m wondering whether you could elaborate on maybe some initial goals you had for the [Expensive Boulders] account, what you hope the community would gain from it, and whether it has evolved or not?

MYR: …I think it’s really cool to be able to walk into a gym and see all sorts of different boulders. There’s a lot of variety, but if you look at my account or our account, you’ll actually see that there’s predominantly—I wouldn’t say it’s one type of boulder, but it’s definitely a certain flavor of boulder, and it’s boulders with big holds. You would be surprised to see that on the account and then actually see where I’m from…the gym that I grew up routesetting in, which has only been the last eight years. We don’t have any sort of wall terrain that allows for us to set with holds that big. Even some of our volumes can’t fit on all of the walls that we have. And we are extremely limited as to what we can do in terms of big coordination moves on slab or on vert or anything that forces you to stay close to the wall. Because of the density that we have to have on our walls, because of how small our gym is, we actually cannot really facilitate that…
Digital Climbing Holds
Getting to the actual answer of your question, a lot of people would always say, “Man, climbing gym memberships are so expensive. I don’t get it…” One of the huge expenses for climbing gyms is holds. And it is absolutely crazy how expensive these holds can get…But my goal with the account was to kind of raise awareness of: “This sport is becoming an industry, and this industry is actually quite expensive. Your 30-second-to-a-minute experience of you climbing one boulder—not only do those holds cost money, but the person who put those holds there, it costs money to have them there. The person that learned how to do that, it costs money to teach them how to do that. It costs money to buy the tools and all of the hardware and all of the everything. The time that it took to teach them how to use their creativity and think of something in their brain and then have it appear on the wall—all of that costs so much money.” And I don’t think a lot of people realize that…
Stefanie Myr setting at Climb Tacoma
Everything that goes into setting a climb—the holds, hardware, labor, training, time, etc.—all costs money, and the Expensive Boulders Instagram account was created to raise awareness around a climb’s full cost.

Feel free to disagree with me on this, but I think that social media’s representation of routesetting could potentially be skewed. What are your thoughts on that?

Oh, I think it absolutely is…Because if you are on a boulder that is just “pull and be strong,” someone can be really strong and they can hop on it and they can climb it and make it kind of look chill. I feel these days if we see a video on Instagram of someone just climbing something like that and they’re really strong, they make it look really easy. Is it something that’s going to keep our attention? Or are we going to scroll until we find the thing where there’s some dude doing a six-move paddle and then catching something with one arm, and then that’s the kind of movement that happens very quickly and it catches your eye? …It hits that spot in your brain when you see something crazy and outlandish like that because your first thought is: “Oh my gosh, that’s crazy. I could never do that.” …Depending on the gym, most of the routes are not that kind of route, and I feel if that’s all we’re seeing as routesetters, it can be kind of tough to break out of that and get creative just making what you could consider just “original,” “vanilla,” “normal” routesetting where you’re just pulling, which I think is really fun…

Social media absolutely focuses on aesthetics. And sometimes when the climber in the video is really strong and they make something look really easy, it’s difficult to tell the functionality of the climb. So, how do you think this slightly skewed representation of routesetting is impacting routesetters?

I think it’s interesting. At least for me, it has allowed me to get myself into a little bit of a rut and feel a little bit stuck sometimes. Because when it comes to aesthetics versus functionality, I will tell you right now that I’ve set routes that are super aesthetic and I’m like, “Gosh, that is so pretty. It’s literally perfect. I cannot believe how pretty and perfect this is and how everything matches. Everything is turned and set the way that I want it.” But then, in forerunning, one part doesn’t work. And the best solution will give my community the route that is best for them, that they will have the most fun on, that they will gain the most from…It’s all about making sure that for the grade, for the type of movement, the climber is enjoying themselves, they’re having just the right amount of difficulty, just the right amount of risk—all that stuff. There have been times where I’ve had to compromise aesthetics for functionality and be like, “Yeah, this hold does not match the hold set. Everything is dual-tex here, but this one isn’t. But this move is too hard for what this wall, what this set needs it to be, and it needs to change.” And I’ve also had some of my setters go through the same thing, too…
Myr climbing at CT
In terms of function versus aesthetics, “the best solution will give my community the route that is best for them, that they will have the most fun on, that they will gain the most from,” says Myr.

You said that generally you’re going to sacrifice aesthetics for function, and 99% of the time I agree with that. But is there any time where you are willing to sacrifice functionality for aesthetics?

I’m sure that there is…If it was something like, “Oh, the route with this perfect aesthetic turns out to be just a touch harder, or maybe they will have to work a little bit harder to keep their feet on.” I think the answer to that would be: If it teaches a good lesson—if it’s something that makes them work harder and end up using better technique or they have to get better body position or something like that—I think that is fine. I definitely have sacrificed the functionality to keep an aesthetic because I’m like, “Well, this will just be a really good opportunity for them to do X, Y and Z with their foot placement.” But if it’s something that I feel would not be beneficial, especially for the difficulty—that would be grossly inappropriate for the difficulty—then I will make the executive decision to be like, “No, we should switch it out.” But sometimes things turn out so perfect that maybe it’s Ok if [the climbers] have to work a little harder. And I think that might be the only time…
Climbing Gym Management Series

So, with your experience on Expensive Boulders and running or now co-running a big social media account, how has the evolution of routesetting online changed your philosophy over the years?

I was thinking about this, and I don’t really know if it has. I think the only way that it maybe has changed it is just what I was saying earlier about putting more focus on creating climbs at lower grades that are eye-catching and look fun. Because it pains me to think about someone walking into the gym and getting so excited to look at a climb, like “that climb looks really exciting,” and then realizing that, where they’re at now with their skill level, they wouldn’t stand a chance on it. Just prioritizing those lower-level climbs…
Myr setting at CT
Harder climbs don’t have to be the only aesthetic climbs with expensive holds in a gym; instead, part of Myr’s setting philosophy is “creating climbs at lower grades that are eye-catching and look fun,” as well.

Going back to philosophy, can you tell us about the major influences or mentors who really shaped who you are as a routesetter, and maybe some major lesson that you’ve taken away from these people?

Well, my most prominent mentor is the owner of Climb Tacoma. His name is Brian. Actually, if you’re curious about Brian Doyle, he owns Climb Tacoma, obviously. He is in the Leavenworth Guidebook. He is a Leavenworth first ascensionist, and he and his best friend Jason own the gym. And Brian pre-COVID was the manager, and he was very involved in the gym…He hired me to work the desk and coach kiddos, the non-competitive team. And then he even said, “Hey, it’d be really cool to get you in routesetting, too. It’d be really good to have a woman on the team.” …And then, yeah, he taught me everything that I know about setting. And one of the biggest things that he has instilled in me is that our routes are here to not only give people a really enjoyable time but also to teach them something. At every level, there’s something that someone can learn, and there is also level appropriateness. I probably would not ask a V0 climber to do a heel hook or a toe hook, but you can introduce those in maybe V2, definitely V3 if you do it in a very simple way that feels very comfy…
Myr climbing outside
“At every level, there’s something that someone can learn,” says Myr, who works to prepare climbers for a variety of climbing movements and environments with her setting.

Let’s say right now you would hire a novice setter with little experience but a lot of psych. Can you run us through as a head setter how you would approach training this setter?

…Well, I think it’s important to understand types of holds. And this is actually something that whenever I teach any sort of Intro to Climbing, a climber’s first day in the gym, I will teach them hold name jargon, so that I can communicate with them. And so, without having that good knowledge base of that kind of communication, it’s really hard to set a route. Because when you’re setting a route, it is a form of communication; you’re asking the climber to do certain movements. So, first I would want to make sure they understand what matching is, what smearing is. Flagging is super important, foot switching—stuff like that. I would want to make sure that they understood that first of all, because you should be asking climbers to do techniques like that in your climbs… I would probably with a newer setter—it would really depend where they’re at in their own climbing—but I would probably start with asking them to set a really simple movement first…For me, I found that it was very helpful when holds were picked out for me and I was given a little bit of direction, but not too much direction where I felt none of the creativity came from me…And then I always make sure that they know, “Hey, if you get stuck, it’s always good to ask for help. I always want to hear any questions that you have. You can never ask too many questions. But also, at the same time, I want you to feel confident enough to try things…”

Why You Should Consider Adding Weekly Memberships (Analysis by Approach)

Authored by Andrew Potter Weekly memberships are not a foreign concept in the fitness industry, but they are definitely more uncommon, and in the climbing gym industry they’re almost non-existent. Approach did a case study across over 100,000 membership billing cycles at gyms using the Approach software to determine how weekly-billed memberships performed against the typical monthly membership. The results were unequivocal: billing weekly was better for businesses and customers. The goal of this article is to help shed some light on why offering members a weekly billing option could be an important addition to your offerings and help improve your business’s performance.

Supporting Your Operations

The climbing gym industry has seen a lot of major changes and improvements since the first climbing gym stateside opened in 1987, but the way members pay for access has stayed fairly steady. The biggest change has been pricing, which has naturally increased with improved product offerings and inflation, but the way members have been able to pay for access has almost always been monthly or prepaid yearly. This constant begs an important question that many of you are likely wondering: “If the industry standard has always been monthly or annual memberships, why would I introduce a weekly-billed membership? The pros better be pretty amazing in order to consider this addition.” Well, the short answer is that they are, so let’s jump right in. For starters, billing weekly will increase your revenue on that membership by 8% over a year, even if it’s the same weekly cost as the monthly-billed membership. This uptick is possible because when you bill monthly you are billing your members twelve times over the year, so you essentially bill them for 48 weeks, but when you bill them weekly you bill them for 52 weeks. That’s four more weeks of billing that are not captured when billing monthly.
Weekly vs. monthly memberships annual revenue comparison
Not yet widely offered in the climbing gym industry, weekly memberships could help climbing gyms tap into additional revenue to support their operations, according to analysis of a new case study by Approach. (All data projections by Approach)
While no one likes a price increase, a small bump is more likely to be well received when it’s going toward a good cause, like supporting the well-being of the staff running the gym. There’s a tertiary effect when you bill members in this manner, and we will use the recent month of June as an example. If you pay your employees every two weeks on a Friday, then in June you likely encountered paying payroll three times. For some companies, that could make finances a bit tighter. But if you bill weekly, you actually bill your members for a fifth week in June as well, helping to cover the operational costs associated with supporting that same membership. Now let’s dig into some of the fun stuff…data.

Reducing Administrative Headaches

Membership logistics can be challenging to look at statistically because raw numbers change on a daily basis with new purchases, cancellations, members going on and off hold, etc. So, in order to simplify things, we looked at each time a membership was billed and then compared weekly billings to monthly billings. We focused on anonymized data from June 2022 to June 2023 from at least 15 gyms using Approach. Here’s what we found:
  • Weekly-Billed: Across 94,641 billings, 9081 failed, which equals a 9.5% failure rate (a majority of these failures were due to insufficient funds).
  • Monthly-Billed: Across 85,510 billings, 15,545 failed, which equals an 18.1% failure rate (a majority of these failures were due to insufficient funds).
Part of the reason that insufficient funds is the most common issue—as opposed to an expired or lost/stolen card—is because on Approach’s system if a consumer gets a new credit card, our processing solution “Approach Pay” automatically updates that card as soon as it is replaced. This automation limits the need to reach out to customers to capture new cards and helps to prevent involuntary churn. In addition, our auto-biller runs multiple times during the beginning of the month in order to recapture payments that were missed. One reason that weekly-billed memberships fail on a smaller scale could be due to the payments themselves being so much smaller. It is more likely that an $80 membership payment will cause a credit card to bounce versus a $20 payment.
Failed membership billing analysis, weekly vs. monthly
A lower failure rate for weekly-billed compared to monthly-billed memberships in the case study suggests climbing gyms could benefit in the long-run by offering a membership option that’s less likely to have billing hiccups.
The next thing we looked at was cancellations. The question we wanted to answer was: “Do people cancel their memberships at a lower rate when billed weekly versus monthly?” The answer is yes, but the results were not as significant as we hypothesized. The reason could be due to the lack of a large data pool with weekly memberships, but that is a big assumption considering the results for failed payments were significant. Here’s what we found over a one-year period:
  • Weekly canceled memberships equaled 2.6%.
  • Monthly canceled memberships equaled 3.1%.
Although the weekly memberships outperformed the monthly memberships, the difference is fairly insignificant. It is our theory, based on our analysis of the data and talking to gym owners, that a majority of the lost dollars unfortunately come from a failed membership billing in which the customer does not return and bets on the fact that their local gym will not take them to collections. If that hypothesis is the case, preventing failed payments could be key in slowing member churn and, according to our findings, billing weekly can help accomplish that goal.

Giving Members Options

Based on our research and our discussions with gyms across the industry, we believe that billing weekly is a great tool that any gym can add to their arsenal. There are also some other positive aspects of weekly billing that are hard to quantify through data but we believe are worth mentioning, so let’s talk about those benefits next.
Climbing in the gym, photo by Tara Shupe Photography
Offering weekly billing gives climbing gym customers more options and could help make the transition from a day pass to a membership more manageable. (Photo by Tara Shupe Photography)
One of those positives is that consumers are less likely to cancel a $20 weekly payment versus a monthly payment when, in many cases, the weekly payment is very close to the cost of a day pass. The same goes for membership purchases. A few of the gym owners we have spoken with have an easier time converting members from a day pass purchase to a $20 weekly membership versus an $80 monthly membership, even though they pay the same price every 4 weeks. Lowering barriers to entry makes financial sense for your business, and it’s good for customers and the sport of climbing as well.

Weathering the Unexpected

The next big positive about weekly memberships is that they can actually help your business ride the waves of economic or other shocks. The extreme scenario dates back to the start of the pandemic, when climbers paid for an entire month of membership only to see their gym shut down, raising questions about getting their money back. In the scenario of a weekly-billed membership, you capture a significantly less amount of money upfront than a product that takes 30 days to use. It is our observation that most gyms in the industry use cash-based accounting, with a handful of the larger operators using GAAP reporting. Well, if you realize revenue based upon how much a membership has been used, like in GAAP reporting, then weekly-billed memberships get realized much faster and decrease your outstanding liabilities. Here’s an example: A gym has 1000 members paying $80 a month and they are billed monthly. Halfway through the month, the business has a flood and must shut down. That business has $40,000-worth of outstanding liability that members could ask for since they cannot use the facility, as opposed to $10,000-worth of outstanding liability if all those members had been on weekly billing.
Climbing facility
Riding ups and downs is part of running a climbing gym business, and weekly billing can help reduce outstanding liability when something unexpected impacts the facility. (Photo by Tara Shupe Photography)
The last consideration for offering weekly memberships is dealing with chargebacks. Just about every gym that we have spoken with has had a member who pays for a membership for six months and then calls the gym saying, “I didn’t know that I was paying for it, and I want my money back.” We’ve unfortunately heard stories about some members even using a gym for two to three months and still submitting three chargebacks for their membership. When you bill weekly, there is a greater amount of effort required by the consumer to submit twelve separate chargebacks for three months. Fortunately, most customers aren’t out to game the system, and weekly billing can help gyms and customers avoid getting into this situation at all. Even if there aren’t multiple chargebacks, we believe it’s less likely for someone to submit a single chargeback over a $20 payment versus an $80 payment.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Overall, we believe that in less than five years a significant portion of the climbing industry will be leveraging weekly memberships to strengthen their business and give their customers more options. It’s not a new concept, but in this industry it is not currently widely adopted. Today, we have more and more clients making the decision to sell weekly memberships, and we are excited to see their business performance increase with the offering. Approach’s goal as a company is to build world-class products that help small business owners across the world make their business better for everyone involved. We continue to build features that are changing the game for gym owners, and we’re not stopping anytime soon.

About the Author

Andrew Potter Andrew Potter is an American entrepreneur and founder or co-founder of multiple companies (including ROKC climbing gyms and Approach), and community is the heart of his mission. Conceptualized in 2014 during his third tour in Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment, ROKC began as a dream to make climbing available to everyone in Kansas City. After dealing with the struggles of operating a multi-facility climbing gym company, Andrew co-founded Approach with the hopes that he could ease the pain that he went through for other gym owners. His goal of providing enterprise-level products for small business owners is still his focus today. Aside from business, Andrew is still an avid climber and loves surfing on jugs in the Red River Gorge. Most importantly, Andrew is a loving husband and father to three children.  
This story was paid for by the sponsor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.