VITAL Lower East Side
Manhattan, New York
Specs: Construction is underway on VITAL’s 8th gym property, a 24-hour–access bouldering gym in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, expected to open in 2024. According to VITAL co-founder David Sacher, the new 45,000–square–foot facility “has to stand up to the market” in New York and, similar to VITAL Brooklyn, is being built with the city atmosphere in mind. The Lower East Side location will have yoga and cycling studios, for example, to complement the bouldering—something VITAL has found to be successful in other big city locations. The new gym will be VITAL’s fourth in the New York City metro and third in Manhattan, following its acquisition of the Steep Rock Bouldering locations in 2021.
From the “terrifying entrepreneurial thrill ride” of opening bouldering gyms in three states across the country, Sacher said he and the VITAL team identified certain design objectives and preferences—such as an open and comfortable ambience, with refined coloring and plenty of cubby space—that are also planned for the Lower East Side gym. Much of the gym’s design is under wraps for now, but Sacher hinted there will be “a lot of metal, really durable surfaces, concrete, and tons of feature and accent lighting.” Benches will be made of metal as opposed to plywood for longevity’s sake, serving the same purpose as having large and flat-angled climbing wall panels for volume-heavy setting, minimizing screw holes.
The new gym will be built into a large space with cathedral ceilings, in a building shared among a grocery store, food court, movie theater, restaurants, and both office and residential spaces. Securing the site took some time and required building rapport and a foundation of trust with building ownership according to Sacher, while waiting for Covid rates to decrease. “After a lot of discussion, we were able to get the space. It’s something that we wanted for a long time. The stars aligned, and we were lucky to get in there,” said Sacher. “We would bring a whole lot of life and energy and traffic to the building they worked so hard to make beautiful.”
For gym operators considering expansion, Sacher emphasized the importance of not cutting corners. “I’ve never regretted over investing in something,” he said. “It can be very hard because finances are always limited. Time is limited. So it’s hard to get everything perfect, but I’ve never regretted going the extra mile to try to make something outstanding in the gym. But I have regretted any time we have cut corners and then had to fix or improve things later on.” Also important for VITAL has been allowing gyms to function independently and autonomously, while maintaining communication between locations and managers.
Walls: Vertical Solutions
CRM Software: MindBody
In Their Words: “We’ve learned so much. It’s been well over a decade of learning and adapting. I think our gyms feel similar and carry the same kind of heart and spirit that the first small bouldering gym [VITAL Carlsbad] has. But every single gym we do, we push ourselves as hard as we can to make it as good as we can. We change quite a lot. If you were to look at the Brooklyn gym, for example, and then come back to the original gym, you could see that there’s a lineage there, but you could also see that they’ve progressed to be new in a lot of ways too.” – David Sacher, co-owner of VITAL
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