School Teachers Launch New Bouldering Gym in Kansas City Metro Area

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Rendezvous Climbing Gym walls and slide
Field trips to a climbing gym for 4th-to-6th-grade runners inspired Mark and Holly Messner to eventually start a bouldering gym of their own—Rendezvous Climbing Gym (pictured)—that will have programs for students and teachers. (All photos courtesy of Rendezvous)]

Rendezvous Climbing Gym
Leawood, Kansas

Specs: The operators of Rendezvous Climbing Gym, a 14,107-square-foot bouldering facility located in Leawood, Kansas, are getting ready to open 6,121 square feet of bouldering terrain (on walls reaching nearly 15 feet) to the public in the coming days. Co-owned by Mark and Holly Messner, the origins of the gym started with a running club.

Eldorado Climbing

While teaching the 6th grade, Mark decided to create the Westview Run Club, an afterschool running program for 4th-6th graders. Mark began rewarding team captains by taking them on field trips, some of which entailed visiting a climbing gym in the final two years of the program. “Exposing them to a new sport and providing them access that they did not have the means to experience was my greatest joy,” said Mark. Both Mark and Holly—who teaches the 7th grade—“share a passion for education and contributing positively to the development of others,” per the Rendezvous website.

After the Spring 2020 semester, Mark chose to “explore a different career path,” he explained, hoping to combine his passions “for athletics as well as working with young people.” The field trip to the climbing gym served as a catalyst for “the concept of creating a climbing facility [of our own] that could introduce the sport to young people and contribute positively to people’s health and wellness,” Mark said.

Rendezvous logo in the gym
“I love the social aspect of bouldering as well as the mental and physical challenges associated with it. I love that climbing can be enjoyed individually, with a group of friends, as a date, for parents and their kids, for people of all ages and abilities, and for people looking to meet other new people,” Mark shared ahead of Rendezvous Climbing Gym’s opening. “I look forward to opening the gym and using it as the place for climbers to meethence the name.”

Mark and Holly found a preexisting building in a “family-friendly community,” Mark said, with “the opportunity to serve communities near the gym that lack some of the resources that other areas have.” According to Mark, the team started their search in the south Kansas City metro area and ultimately chose Leawood. “I saw an opportunity in this market based on a variety of factors, including proximity to other climbing gyms, population density, economic factors, and availability of spaces,” he said. “Height was a factor in many of the spaces I initially looked at, but [we] eventually found this space that had enough height throughout to not interfere with the bouldering walls. Other factors, including costs for rent and renovations, factored into the decision.”

OnSite

The finished gym will feature a retail area, café with food and beverage services, and stage for hosting live music or local vendors. There will also be social spaces for work and play at the gym, with a variety of games available. Mark has created a curriculum and plans to host team-building programs for school groups, targeting upper-elementary-aged students all the way to high schoolers. He is also working to create a curriculum for teachers, intended to help them develop programs at Rendezvous. Mark and Holly plan to host charitable events with youth-focused, nonprofit organizations and donate day passes to local schools as well. “I also plan to invite teachers from the area in parallel with teacher appreciation week,” Mark added.

Bouldering walls at Rendezvous
“The border of Kansas and Missouri runs directly through the suburbs of Kansas City, so while we are in Leawood, we are located on State Line road across the street from Missouri. We are about 15 miles south of downtown Kansas City in a suburban area,” Matt said about the new bouldering gym’s location, predicting Rendezvous will serve the Kansas City metro area across state lines.

Mark recommends that gym operators looking to open a climbing facility in 2024 connect with a consultant beforehand. “I met and hired Chris Ryan from Ryan Studios very early in my process. He worked with me on creating the initial concept and design for the space,” he said. “Chris has also played a crucial role as a consultant for me. He has a particular expertise in architecture, wall design, gym operations, and the general construction process. He has been an invaluable asset to my team and has been a great sounding board for me throughout the entire process.”

Trango Holds Pardners

Walls: Eldorado Climbing + WallTech Climbing
Flooring: Flashed
CRM Software: Approach
Website: www.rendezvouskc.com
Instagram: @RendezvousClimbing

In Their Words: “Kansas City is a city with many positive things that bring people together, and we intend to capture that in our facility. We want to honor things like BBQ, music, arts and sports that regularly bring people together, and we intend to add climbing to that list.” – Mark Messner, Co-Owner and Founder of Rendezvous Climbing Gym

Harness Consulting