Vertical Solutions and Project Financing

The Front South Main
The Front South Main, the largest new gym to open last year, with the signature walls of Vertical Solutions. (All photos courtesy of VS)

In the 15 years since John and I founded Vertical Solutions (or “VS”, as we affectionately call it) we’ve helped bring over 100 projects of all sizes to life. During this time, our unmistakable diamond-pattern-finish became the symbol of a VS wall, but the walls themselves represent so much more. Vertical Solutions, at its core, values innovation, quality, and aesthetic. Proudly, 100% of our operations including design, manufacturing, hold production, sewing, and innovation are performed at our 3-acre campus in Salt Lake City, Utah. And, from a start of literally just John and I, we now employ nearly 100 full time staff with diverse backgrounds and skillsets.

Bear with me on a bit of what-our-company-is-now, or skip to the bottom to get straight to the goods on how Vertical Solutions can now help with project financing.

The Front SLC
The Front Climbing Club’s storied lifestyle climbing gym in Salt Lake City, the outdoorsy city VS also calls home.

15 Years of Growth and Providing Client Value

Throughout our growth over the years, our unwavering commitment to improvement and innovation has created increased value to our clients, and in turn our business. Our installs are cleaner and faster. We were the first to bring hardwood inlays into design, another distinct element complementing our diamond birch finish. Our manufacturing is methodical and we’re intentional in all that we do.

VS hardwood inlays
VS walls with hardwood inlays, another distinct VS design element, at Flowstone Climbing.

We design and engineer in 3D with a comprehensive knowledge of current best practices in architecture, engineering, and project coordination. As such, our models seamlessly import into architects’ and consultants’ models while providing our clients with a clear picture of their project. This allows the entire development team to better identify conflicts with mechanical, electrical, and other trades before construction starts, cutting down on project change orders, mistakes, and delays. Our engineers have worked with the most stringent and demanding of building departments (I’m looking at you, California) to get permits through and inspections completed.

VS wall design
“Our models seamlessly import into architects’ and consultants’ models while providing our clients with a clear picture of their project,” says Dustin Buckthal, VS Co-Founder and CEO.

Innovation and improvement don’t end with walls, though. Our bouldering pads have a 10-year track record of holding up to heavy use, and are the toughest and cleanest in the market. Our growing number of independent hold brands provide a menu of over 600 sets for our clients to choose from as part of the Habit Climbing credit that comes with all builds.

The Front SLC
The Front SLC walls refinished in VS diamonds during the Covid closures, with fresh holds and Habit flooring.

With our unmatched and intimate breadth of knowledge in project development, financing, and operations, our business consultation package has been a critical training to many clients. Although the work we do together is broad and custom to what each client needs for their specific project, common topics include the pros and cons of buying versus renting real estate, vetting specific locations and flushing out additional location options, sequencing and when to start cost-consciously investing in architects and engineers to move the project forward, and, of course, the curation of a dynamic financial model of the business in preparation for financing.

The opportunity and experience in working with our clients at this level of engagement and sharing our passion and knowledge is personally fulfilling to me as it reminds me of my early years with The Front and trying to make it work. On that note, a few shout-outs to some recent and current clients that have been a pleasure to work with and made it through gym builds and openings during all that was 2020:

Half-Moon Bouldering
“Made by our friends, inspired by VS walls, and served on the VS cutting board. Complete with Gloria hanging on to dear life…” – Half-Moon Bouldering owners Daniel and Gloria Man

Daniel and Gloria Man with Half-Moon Bouldering, Seattle, WA. | Opened March 13th

Andrew Hou with Uplift Climbing, Seattle, WA. | Opened February 5th

Jeff Compas (an Ogden Front Original Member!) with Contact Climbing, St George, Utah. | Opened February 4th.

Uplift Climbing
Owner Andrew Hou between Uplift Climbing crew members.

And a few that are nearing the finish line:

Chris Tansey with Gecko, Phoenix, AZ.

Doug Johnson with Rockoon, Greenville, SC.

Matthew DiLorenzo with The Grotto, San Diego, CA

Ok, ok, the Money. Project Financing

Perhaps one of Vertical Solution’s most notable successes throughout the company’s life is how our clients continue to show a track record of their own success and profitability. We have found that gym owners who understand the value of building with Vertical Solutions are those that also have the visionoperational mindset, and ability to pave a path toward success. These clients are often entrepreneurial types that have all the pieces for success in place but just need the capital to get them there.

Crux Central
Crux Central in Austin, which together with VS navigated the pandemic to successfully open in 2020.

We are pleased to announce that we now have a financing partner with one of the nation’s top originators of small business loans. This lending is not just for walls, pads, and holds, but for the entire project. This financing partner can accommodate qualifying clients’ projects of nearly any size, whether as part of a buildout of leased space or a ground-up development of client-owned real estate.

These loans are standard 504 and 7a loans, but are the most competitive we have seen, especially for current gym owners. Benefits can include:

  • Low down payment, and in some cases, lending to over 100% LTV (No down-payment) on 7a loans
  • Standard SBA rates (currently about 2.75% for 504 loans and as low as 5.25% for 7a loans).
  • Standard SBA amortization and terms.
  • Expedited underwriting with pre-approvals in days, and commitment letters in weeks after a complete loan package is submitted.
  • Application and loan package items are delivered directly from borrower to lender and are not disclosed to VS without explicit permission from borrower.
The Front South Main
The entrance to The Front South Main, built from the ground up. VS’ financing partner “can accommodate qualifying clients’ projects of nearly any size, whether as part of a buildout of leased space or a ground-up development of client-owned real estate.”

Borrowers who are previous VS customers or current operators with profitable operations are the strongest candidates for this financing program. First-time operators with strong marks in the 5 C’s are also good candidates for financing, but will have higher down payment requirements.

Aesthetic matters. Authenticity matters. Together, let’s build beautiful, profitable gyms that change communities.

Dustin Buckthal

Co-Founder and CEO


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