Climbing Panels

Frequently Asked Questions

Finding the Right Space

  • I am just getting started, where do I begin?

    The two things to start with are budget and facility. Of course, every project is restricted by a budget. You can either start with a fixed dollar amount and work the climbing wall to fit the budget, or you can figure out the perfect size for the wall and then find out what it will cost and raise the dollars to pay for it.

    Type of Facility? Who is the wall being built for and how do you plan to use it? Understanding what is the best wall for your facility is complicated but we would be happy to talk with you and make a recommendation.

  • What is the right size gym given an area or population?

    When planning a climbing gym, among the most important decisions that you need to make is what size of a gym to build. You don’t want to build it too small and invite competition, but at the same time you don’t want to go too large either and waste money on start-up costs.

    Back in the early 1990’s when climbing gyms were few and far between, we used to think that they could only survive in a city of 500,000 or more. As the years passed and climbing became more and more popular, we started seeing them being built and prospering in smaller and smaller communities. It is not uncommon now for major metropolitan areas to have 6 climbing gyms and communities of 50,000 to support a moderately sized facility.

    The size of a gym really comes down to the demographics. For example, Boulder, CO, a city of about 100,000, has four climbing gyms that all do quite well. This city can support these facilities because it is filled with a very young and active population. On the other side of the coin, Orlando Florida, which has a population of more than 2 million, has only two gyms. There are some communities of 10,000 that can support a small climbing gym while other cities of 50,000 would probably have a harder time. As important as the total number of people that you have in your target market is the type of person that is there.

    Our best advice, which has remained the same since the early days, is that if your “gut” tells you that your area can support a gym then it probably can. You of course need to put in the due-diligence and complete a more rigorous study of your demographics to prove this to yourself (and to your investors), but it is very rare to have someone finish this type of study and come to the conclusion that it just isn’t feasible. The question soon becomes, “Ok, so what size climbing gym do I build?”

    The Business Plan /Consultation package that we offer addresses this and other issues relating to planning a climbing gym business. The formula for evaluating your market is based on real life historical data from gyms across the country and provides you the tools you need to accurately understand and assess your market. Once completing this study, you will be able to accurately size your gym to discourage competition and maximize investor return.

  • What should I look for in a building?

    If you haven’t realized it yet, there are two hard parts to developing a climbing gym. They are (in order of difficulty), finding a location and finding the funding. Putting together everything else is just a matter of time and effort. It used to be that finding the money was the hardest part, but now that there are climbing gyms in just about every major market, and with the popularity of climbing on the rise, it is relatively easy to find investors. The business case for owning a gym has been proven.

    The real estate component on the other hand has become harder because of normally good economic conditions, low vacancy rates and reluctance of property owners to lease to non-traditional uses such as a rock-climbing gym. For this reason, many climbing gyms are being forced to develop new properties or enter build-to-suit deals to get the right building.

    The type of building that works best for climbing gyms is a high ceiling warehouse for a gym with top rope climbing walls. Bouldering-only gyms have more flexibility in this regard. The general rule is – the higher the ceiling the better, though most gyms are in the 24’ to 35’ range. Typically, these buildings are in commercial or industrial parts of town. As a result, they are often a bit rough in appearance and don’t have the nice amenities of a retail type space and require some modifications to bring it up to the standards of a modern climbing gym. They are also much less expensive which is why a gym can typically afford to build there. Since a climbing gym is a destination, location is not nearly as critical as height.

    One of the other challenges is to find a building with high ceilings and a reasonable sized footprint. Often the buildings that have 40’ ceilings will also be 50,000 square feet in size. Depending on the size facility that you are building, the footprint that you will need is probably between 6,000 and 12,000 square feet. Landlords are less willing to break up a large space because of the expense of building a wall to partition the space, along with the added hassle of dealing with multiple tenants.

  • How do I raise the start-up capital or financing for a climbing gym?

    To say that there is a typical way that our clients have put together the financing would be inaccurate. There just isn’t a typical path to financing a new gym project. Although climbing gyms are somewhat similar in the services they provide and the type of client they attract, the ways that the businesses are structured and the ways that financing has been raised are extremely different. Some of the more typical scenarios are a) small group of people (usually 2 or 3) get together and put together the business plan. Often, they will have some of the financial resources between them (25 to 50% of the total start up budget). Usually, this part of the financing comes from family money or personal equity. They then go out and secure traditional bank financing for the remainder of the project. The reality is, if you have the money or collateral to back it up, the bank will loan you what you need. If you only have a great idea with nothing to back it, a bank is not likely to take interest in your project, as it would be too risky.

    Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are available, but they can have higher thresholds to meet for a borrower. Typically, SBA loans require more collateral than a private lending organization or bank. Then again, sometimes it is the only way that you can get something done. Another option we’ve seen is where a group comes up with all the money with little to no financing at all. This type of scenario usually involves more family money, quite often all or most coming from one persons’ family. Another scenario is where the small group solicits investors and sells ownership to a large group (15 to 30) of limited partners. This kind of structure requires some legal work upfront to make the offering legal, etc. It is a trade-off between risk and equity. The person who puts in the most risk will get the most ownership of the business. The more people involved, the more the risk is shared but the harder it is to make decisions and move quickly.

  • How do I calculate the square footage for climbing walls?

    Multiply the length of the wall by the height of the room. Then multiply this number by a factor of 1.3 to account for the articulation of the wall surface. This total is a good estimate of what is possible in terms of square footage of the climbing wall.

Climbing Wall Design and Construction

  • Are climbing walls custom designed for every location?

    Our products are custom climbing structures, specifically designed to your facility, programming and space requirements. The design process for any new projects starts off with hearing from you and your wish-list of what you would like to see in your gym. We then take that into consideration and start laying out the climbing wall in the space. This is when the gym comes alive and the excitement really starts!

    Our walls contain a multitude of angled faces to challenge all types of climbers from first time beginners to seasoned professionals. We can even incorporate ledges for rappelling and stations for ropes course or team building elements. In most cases if you can imagine it, we can build it.

    And we can work with almost any budget. The walls are prefabricated in our factory and shipped in sections to your site. Construction and assembly are done by our installation crew. Our climbing walls are extremely durable and are backed by a 3-year warranty against manufacturer’s or installation defects.


  • Can you provide a turn-key solution for my climbing project?

    Yes! We provide the following services: design, engineering, fabrication, shipping & installation, along with all necessary climbing gear, holds, flooring, and extras like: washrooms, change rooms and front desks. We even do staff training, route setting and inspections over the lifetime of the gym!

  • How long does it take to build a climbing wall?

    Design of your climbing walls will typically take 2 to 3 weeks but really depends on the size of the project. Once the design has been finalized & approved, the engineering of the steel support structure can begin. This engineering will take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, also depending on the complexity of the structure and size of the project. Prefabrication of the climbing wall & structure typically requires one week per 2,000 square feet of climbing wall surface. Once prefabrication has been completed and the wall components have been shipped to the site, the installation process can begin. Our crew can typically install 1,200 square feet of climbing wall per week.

    Our modular DIY climbing panels they are built to order and typically ship in 2 to 4 weeks. The more expansive the wall the longer it takes to make, not surprisingly.

  • How much does it cost to build a full-sized climbing gym?

    If the facility is going into a leased space that does not require many major interior renovations, the average start-up cost ranges between $250,000 – $750,000. This assumes a climbing wall size of 4,000 to 12,000 square feet. The cost of the climbing wall in this scenario will be approximately 60 to 70 percent of the total start-up cost.

    If the facility is purchasing land, constructing the building, and doing the complete interior build-out, the cost of the project can range from $500,000 and up depending on location and size. In this case, the climbing wall would represent a much smaller percentage of the entire cost.

  • What should I consider about building a climbing wall?

    Height, size, location, location access & timeline are all factors that must be considered when pricing a climbing wall. Given the highly custom nature of most climbing gym projects, there can be a wide variation in costs and scheduling for a given project. We’d love to chat and discuss in more detail – feel free to reach out and we’d be glad to help!

  • Are climbing walls safe?

    The safety record on our climbing walls is incredible – our build standards are very high.  The overall indoor climbing wall industry also has a good safety record. One metric used to make this assessment is to highlight that there are fewer injuries per participant in artificial climbing walls then there are in the sport bowling! It is only the perception of climbing outside on real rock that is dangerous, where safety standards are largely left up the individual climbers. Indoor climbing gyms are controlled environments utilizing modern safety gear like ropes & harnesses, and welded steel anchoring systems that ensure a high standard of safety. On top of this, most gyms, if not all, understand their role in ensuring all visitors to their facility follow the rules and prove that they are competent to use the walls. Passing of short training courses before being allowed to climb is mandatory and an industry standard for any new visitor. Reckless or dangerous behavior is rarely tolerated.

Climbing Gym Operations

  • How much is climbing gym insurance?

    The rate is typically between 2 – 3% of your annual revenues. For example, a gym that does $750,000 in climbing wall related revenue (excluding equipment sales, rentals, etc.) would be looking at an annual insurance cost of about $20,000 for the year – just one of the costs of doing business.

  • Should I add a retail space to my climbing gym?

    It has been our experience that climbing gyms that also offer a full retail store do not do as well (financially) as gyms that do not offer retail. Our theory for explaining this is that retail requires a good deal of effort and most people that operate climbing gyms do not have the time to do a good job at retail. There are of course the upfront cost of stocking inventory to consider, which ties up valuable resources until it is sold. The effort spent on the retail store could better used developing or promoting new programs at the climbing gym. This will archive a much stronger return on the time invested.

    Our standard recommendation to gym owners is to not offer retail unless they have experience in this area. It is often better to lease any space in the gym considered for retail to a local gear shop that is better able this area of the business. This leaves you, the gym owner, to focus on your core business – the operation of the climbing gym.

  • What is the minimum age for climbing?

    We do not place a minimum age on participants. Our rule is that any child that wants to climb can try it. We have special safety harnesses that are designed for very small children. It is not uncommon to find children aged 3 or 4 that want to climb; however most children are too scared to really try it until they are 5 or 6. It really depends on the child.