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The Climbing Wall Association's newly-launched blog is a place for indoor climbing industry professionals to find useful and relevant information from industry and business experts. Stay on top of best practices, thought leadership, and trends by subscribing to Thrive - A Climbing Business Blog! www.climbingwallindustry.org/lines

 

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The CWA Requests That Congress Provide Stimulus to Climbing Gyms

Posted By Garnet Moore, Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Open Letter to Congress

On March 25th the Senate will be voting on what is likely the first round of stimulus for American businesses and individuals. While there are provisions for small businesses included that will help many of the climbing gyms in the US, we are encouraging legislators to pay attention to the fitness and recreation industry as a whole, and the climbing gym sector in particular.

 

The Climbing Wall Association has issued an open letter to key members of the US government to communicate what our industry needs, and to demonstrate the potential impact on the US economy should the nation’s climbing gyms suffer a severe financial toll directly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

This exact law is still being determined, but one potential area for industry specific support is in the way that the “Exchange Stabilization Fund” can be used to back any loans made to certain sectors. These allotments are controlled by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. As this resource is put into use, it is important that specific industries make their voice heard to ensure that they are not left out of any upcoming action.

 

This will likely not be the only legislation passed in response to COVID-19. And, the CWA will monitor the effects of any new laws being discussed that may impact our industry. There is also ongoing work to assemble a coalition of similarly positioned businesses to build a larger, stronger front as we continue to advocate for our members.

 

As local and state legislation develops, the CWA will work to influence new laws and communicate to our members any developments that could affect indoor climbing gyms. We also implore you to assist us in these efforts. The indoor climbing community is an amazing collection of talented individuals and by working together we can make sure that any forthcoming assistance is available to all gyms in the United States.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19 

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Membership Communications During Gym Closures

Posted By Laura Allured, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Closure Messaging

As climbing gyms across the country and the world shut their doors to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, questions have emerged about how to communicate with members and customers. Here are a few tips and considerations…

 

Be Transparent

Develop a plan for your closure and clearly communicate it to your members. Things are changing rapidly, but you can avoid confusion by letting them know why you’re closing, how you made the decision, and how you’ll continue to evaluate the situation. Your plans will likely have to change as this situation unfolds, but people like to know that you have their best interests at heart.

 

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but many of your members will be happy to have an opportunity to support you. They want you to continue to exist after this crisis is over and many of them will be willing to put their money where their mouth is.

 

Opt-In vs. Opt-Out

The opt-in vs. out-out debate is tricky. Do you put your revenue on the line by asking members to opt-in if they’d like to continue their membership during the closure, or do you put your gym first and opt members into paying by default?

 

“One thing I considered in making our decision is our membership demographic as a whole and how our decision plays into a broader picture of income inequality. For example, by utilizing opt-out are we shifting the burden to those who most need the money? Those who may be more stressed during this time and aren't paying attention to Facebook or the hundreds of emails we're all getting everyday about the virus,” explains Dana Caracciolo, General Manager of Doylestown Rock Gym & Adventure Center.

 

Though income inequality is an important consideration, a downside to the opt-in approach is that you're relying on your member's bandwidth to respond to your request. This will inevitably have a negative impact on the proportion of members who keep their membership in place.

 

One way to address these competing priorities is to use your staff’s time - those that you’re able to keep on payroll - to call every member and ask for their support directly. You’ll get the opportunity to connect with your membership in a new way, as well as the peace of mind knowing that the members who are still contributing are in a financial position to do so.

 

Stay Positive

This may be a tall order in such an uncertain time, but try to keep a positive tone in all of your communications right now. Use an active voice instead of a passive voice, avoid overly negative phraseology, and don’t dwell on the circumstances for your closure.

 

“Nobody needs to hear the world is falling right now,” says Kristin Horowitz of Ascent Ventures/The Pad Climbing. “Give them a reason to believe and they’ll keep supporting you because you’re giving them that.”

 

Be Authentic

“Communications need to match/mirror the relationship the owner actually has with their members, and the owner themselves,” advises Wes Shih of Sender One. Authenticity is key with all communications, so keep that in mind to avoid a scenario where your messaging comes across as disingenuous and backfires.

 

Communication Examples

Here are just a few examples of membership communications put out by climbing gyms from across the country:

5.Life Closure Messaging Example
Doylestown Rock Gym Closure Messaging Example
Sender One Closure Messaging Example
The Pad Closure Messaging Example

 

Laura Allured Head ShotAbout the Author

Laura Allured is the Marketing & Communications Manager at the Climbing Wall Association. Laura is the editor of the CWA's blog, Thrive, and also manages the CWA’s Industry Research Program, including the annual indoor climbing industry study. Originally from the Chicagoland area, she got her start climbing in 2012 at Vertical Endeavors and has been hooked ever since.

 

Tags:  branding  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer service  marketing  member communications  member retention 

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My Gym Is Closed, Now What?

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, March 20, 2020
Closed Now What

Whether you closed your gym voluntarily, or you are in an area where your gym was forced to close, you are dealing with some challenging questions at the moment. We want to remind you that you do have options and that the CWA is here to help in any way possible.

 

If you have not done so already, reach out to your insurance provider, your landlord, and any lenders to see what deferments are available. All of these providers know that this is not your fault and that indoor climbing, in general, is a viable business model. They will prefer to help you rather than see you go out of business. In some cases, they may be eligible in the future for aid in relation to any assistance they provide, and as the situation develops rapidly, they may even have restrictions on when and how they collect payments.

 

Many banks are offering 90-day deferments for loans. You may even be able to accumulate your principal and interest payments for the next 6 months and have them added to your final loan payment. The best course of action is to start the conversation as soon as possible. Similarly, your landlord may be willing, or mandated to, defer your rent payments and to wait to collect any rent owed until after the pandemic is over.

 

Likewise, insurance policies could be frozen, claims could be filed, and there may be some potential to renegotiate liability premiums to account for changes in your forecasted income. The CWA’s partner, Monument Sports Group, is working to negotiate with the insurance carriers on behalf of the entire industry. Mid-term policy adjustments, payment deferments, and extending policy terms are some possibilities to ease some of the pressure you are feeling. Monument has also contacted carriers outside of the CWA program to encourage that they explore similar options.

 

Possibly the most difficult decisions you will be making are around your employees. Assistance is coming rapidly and you should pay attention to your local department of labor for any changes they have made which could allow you to lay off or reduce the hours of employees knowing that they are eligible for unemployment benefits to make up for the lost wages.

 

On March 18th the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and its provisions will help support those efforts. This act also will affect what leave you have to provide your employees and how you must pay them during extended leave. For a more thorough review, read our analysis of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

 

An often-overlooked area of savings is the benefits that you offer your employees. You can explore the option to suspend or cancel any non-essential benefits such as dental or vision insurance and retirement benefits. Discuss these options with your lawyer to make sure that you are not violating any employment contracts.

 

While the full range of assistance programs are being determined, the most immediate program you may have access to is the SBA Disaster Loan Program. If you qualify, you are eligible for a loan up to $2 million at an interest rate of 3.75% with a term of 30 years. To apply go directly to their website and begin the application.

 

The CWA will be here for you throughout this crisis and after. The long-term future of the climbing industry still looks very bright and it is vital to remember that your customers can’t wait to get back into the gym.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  financing  human resources  leadership  management  operations  risk management 

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The Impact of H.R. 6201 “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” on Indoor Climbing Gyms

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, March 20, 2020
Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 18th Congress passed the Coronavirus Response Act. In this bill there is assistance for you and your employees. Here’s a brief overview of some of the key laws that you will need to pay attention to.

 

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

  • If you have fewer than 500 employees, you must now provide 2 weeks of paid sick leave.
    • If your employee has been advised to self-quarantine, is experiencing symptoms, or is subject to an isolation order, you must pay sick leave at the regular rate.
    • If they are caring for someone who has been advised to self-quarantine, is experiencing symptoms, or is subject to an isolation order, or if they are caring for a child whose school or care provider has been closed, you must pay sick leave at two-thirds the regular rate.
  • Full time workers are eligible for up to 80 hours of sick leave and part-time workers are eligible for sick leave based on their normal work hours over a two-week period.
  • If you have less than 50 employees, the Department of Labor may exempt businesses from this requirement if it threatens the viability of the business.
  • Employees must have been employed for 30 days to be eligible for this benefit.
  • If you have an existing paid leave policy, you must also provide this emergency paid sick leave.
  • You could be subject to civil penalties if you violate this law.

Tax Credits for Required Paid Sick Leave

  • You will receive a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 100% of qualified paid sick leave wages for each quarter.
    • This credit is claimed on your quarterly employment tax returns. To assist with cash flow, employers can fund the family leave pay by accessing employment taxes that have been withheld and set aside for deposit with the IRS.
    • The credit is capped at $511 per day for employees personally affected, and at $200 per day for employees who are caring for others.
  • If you are self-employed and you are diagnosed or have to comply with an isolation recommendation you are able to claim up to 100% of the qualified sick leave equivalent, if you are self-employed and you are caring for someone you can claim up to 67% of the sick leave amount.
    • The credit is refundable and will be credited against your income and self-employment taxes.
    • The credit is capped at $511 per day or the average daily self-employment income for the tax year.
    • You must retain documentation to establish eligibility for the credit.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) Expansion Act

  • If you have fewer than 500 employees your employees who have been working for at least 30 days are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the FMLA if they are caring for a child whose school or care provider has closed.
    • The first 10 days of this leave can be unpaid, but an employee could choose to use vacation, personal leave, or any other paid time off available.
    • After the first 10 days employers must provide two-thirds the normal pay rate.
  • Family leave pay is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in total and is limited to 12 weeks in one calendar year.
  • If you have less than 50 employees the Department of Labor may exempt businesses from this requirement if it threatens the viability of the business.

Tax Credits for Required Paid Family Leave

  • You will receive a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 100% of qualified family leave wages paid.
    • This credit is claimed on your quarterly employment tax returns. To assist with cash flow, employers can fund the family leave pay by accessing employment taxes that have been withheld and set aside for deposit with the IRS.
    • The credit is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 dollars per calendar quarter.
    • The credit is triggered only after an employee has taken more than 10 days of paid sick leave.
  • If you are self-employed and you are caring for a child whose school or care provider has closed, then you are eligible for a tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified family leave equivalent.
    • The credit is refundable and will be credited against your income and self-employment taxes and it can be refundable against an employer’s payroll taxes.
    • The credit is capped at $200 per day or the average daily self-employment income for the tax year and is capped at 50 days.
    • You must retain documentation to establish eligibility for the credit.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  human resources  leadership  management  public policy  regulations 

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Comfort, Progress, and Challenge in Routesetting

Posted By Willis Kuelthau, Monday, March 9, 2020
Andreas Lerch Routesetting

As routesetting continues to develop as a profession and a career, it’s becoming an increasingly important part of modern gyms. With that role comes increased pressure on the quality of setting and the experience of climbers.

 

But the goals of routesetting aren’t always easy to balance — good setting needs to both challenge and entertain, to offer puzzling sequences that remain rewarding. What’s more, most gyms must cater to climbers of widely varying levels.

 

To get some clarity on balancing the demands, I got in touch with Andreas Lerch, Head Routesetter for Vancouver’s The Hive.

 

Andreas oversees routesetting operations for three facilities in the busy Vancouver area, with a fourth location slated for Winnipeg. All Hive locations are bouldering only.

 

Willis Kuelthau: How do you think of your relationship to members and climbers? Are you here to challenge, amuse, both?

Andreas Lerch: I think of my relationship with members and climbers as more than just bringing a product to them — we are bringing an experience. As a crew, we work to challenge and engage the climber as much as possible.

 

With the steady increase of climbers and members, I spend a lot of time balancing what beginner climbers think is fun with what experienced climbers think is fun. Setters often forget that sometimes beginners don't need to be challenged the same way as your strongest members, and we need to get them to the top so that they get hooked and keep coming back for more.

 

With that being said, we also have a lot of strong climbers who need to constantly be challenged in other ways.

 

WK: Is there a tension between challenge and entertainment? How do you challenge climbers while ensuring that they enjoy the experience?

AL: I wouldn't say there is tension between challenge and entertainment; I think they can sometimes go hand in hand.

 

I think a big focus on challenging climbers comes from empathy and understanding what it feels like to be a beginner all over again. We do our best to continue to introduce volumes on easier boulders, as well as encourage the use of big “fun” holds. We also try to ensure that there are climbs of all levels on all wall angles.

 

Another way we challenge climbers is setting specific movements in a range of grades, such as an easy mantle, medium mantle, and hard mantle boulder. I think seeing people work their way up the same climb with 3+ variations is a neat challenge.

 

WK: Different climbers and members have different needs. How do you balance setting for hardcore climbers with a less experienced crowd?

AL: I use the motto “Fun, Fair, and Functional”. We also have a lot of diversity on the setting team from gender to height. We have people who are five feet tall on our team all the way up to 6’ 2”.

 

Between the three facilities, we have over twelve setters. So, we have a lot of different brains to pull ideas from. Since we do have people come in with all skill levels, we manage this by setting a variety of styles.

 

We also have other outlets for members who crush, such as the Moon board and Stokt board. I often find the hardcore climbers to be the ones who climb the least and train the most, so having an awesome training space is key.

 

WK: Does outdoor climbing inform your setting? Do you try to prepare members for the outdoors, or leave it as a separate discipline?

AL: We do some gym-to-crag seminars, but in terms of the setting, we don’t generally do any of the indoor-to-outdoor comparisons.

 

We try to bring moves you may see outside into the gym, and I think as a climber, climbing outside can bring inspiration to my setting.

 

I like to think that we prepare members for the outdoors. However, I think we have many climbers who would rather just climb inside their entire life and don't care much for outdoor climbing.

 

WK: How do grades fit into this conversation? A useful tool for progression, or a subjective measure that can hold climbers back?

AL: Grades are always a hot topic to talk about. We use a hex system: one-hex through six-hex. It’s a circuit system — in each hex, there are three V grades. Our circuits do overlap, so there’s overlap in all of the circuits.

 

I think that grades can be a useful tool for progression if problems are never changing. I think due to the number of styles climbing has to offer, grades will always be super subjective.

 

For example, I don’t excel at slab climbing, but put me in the steep on pinches and I will do great.

 

I think benchmarks on the Moon board can be helpful to see whether or not you are improving as those climbs always stay the same.

 

But I think for sure grades are always going to be a challenge. It’s something we constantly struggle with as setters. As a crew, we’ll get a lot stronger and the grades won’t show that. It’s my job to say: “Hey guys, you’re getting really strong. You gotta tone it down a little bit.”

 

I also find that the conditions of a climb affect the grades. Something that we do is we put up “New” plaques for a week, which are ungraded plaques. And that allows a week for climbs to be climbed, and we can then adjust the climb to a more appropriate grade if it got harder (or in some cases easier).

 

It also really encourages people to climb things they would never try, which is pretty rad. I see new people get on a six-hex, and I’m like “Oh my gosh, this is going to be interesting.” But it’s cool, because they don’t know the grade and they’re just having fun. Whereas if there were a grade on it, they wouldn’t even touch it.

 

We also try our best to keep the grades consistent among the gyms, which is another one of the big challenges as we have a decent amount of multi-gym users.

 

WK: Are there any unique setting advantages or challenges that come with being a bouldering-only gym?

AL: For sure. We don’t have to be on ropes, so there’s a lot less of the rope safety stuff that we have to be worried about.

 

It’s a lot easier to teach people how to set unique movements and challenge our routesetters when we can easily tweak moves on the ground. It’s really hard to teach people on a rope, when you’re like: “You know the crux up there by the third draw…” You can just get up on a ladder and swap holds and really explain things.

 

So, I find that the teaching aspect is really enhanced in a bouldering facility. And not sitting in a harness for a long time is awesome.

 

WK: Are there ways that you think climbers could get more out of their gym experience? What do you wish more climbers knew about routesetting?

AL: I think there are many ways climbers can get more out of their gym experience. We strive to create a strong community at the Hive and host a lot of community-based events to bring people together. We also offer some awesome courses for climbers to up their skills.

 

As far as climbers understanding routesetting better, I’ve been toying with this thought for a while. I feel it is important for people to understand what goes into routesetting, and there are many avenues that one could go down in terms of sharing this with the community.

 

I wish more climbers knew how much work goes into creating a climb, and that we aren’t setting selfish sandbagged boulders that are for giants. We spend a lot of time as a crew to create an awesome experience that will keep climbers coming back.

 

I think one aspect of this is having management know what the setting process looks like, so when asked they can explain it to members, as our routesetting team is not always around. The more people who understand the process the better.

 

WK: How important is member-setter communication? Are there any tools or feedback methods that you particularly value?

AL: I think member feedback is super important. If you are not listening to your members, they will find another gym that will.

 

Member retention is key to the growth of a gym. In order to keep members, you need to listen to what they have to say and keep them in the loop when changes are being made. I have spent a lot of time over the years talking to members and reading member feedback comments.

 

We recently did a survey across all gyms and got some awesome feedback and followed up with a great FAQ. I would highly recommend this approach.

 

I also reach out to our ambassadors. Our ambassadors climb at multiple facilities regularly, and we send out a feedback form quarterly to get their input. They are all quite experienced and notice trends that the setters may overlook, such as the tops of boulders getting spooky or an excess of bad feet on all the problems.

 

Willis Kuelthau Head ShotAbout the Author

Willis is the rare local who was actually born in Boulder, Colorado. He attended Williams College and works as a freelance writer out of Providence, Rhode Island. When he's not writing, you'll find him rock climbing, playing with his cats, and drinking too much green tea.

 

Tags:  community development  customer experience  customer satisfaction  member retention  operations  routesetting  routesetting management 

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6 Tips for Collecting Member Feedback

Posted By Emma Walker, Monday, March 9, 2020
Member Feedback

Your members represent so much more than just your facility’s earnings. They’re the lifeblood of your gym’s community. Still, many facilities don’t yet have a robust strategy for capturing feedback from customers and members. There’s a lot you can learn from your members to improve your facility—the opportunity is much larger than just fielding comments about routesetting.

 

5.Life collects all kinds of information from its members, says Program Manager Eli Collinson: members’ impressions of their routesetting curve, if the number or topics of classes offered should change, and suggestions for areas of improvement. Building a member feedback loop that creates buy-in from members also means making your facility more member-friendly. Here’s what you need to know.

 

1. Be Proactive

Sender One facilities collect feedback from its members “at least once a month,” says Marketing Manager Crystal Tan, adding that they also have suggestion cards members can fill out anytime.

 

“We try to consolidate our surveys into one big survey for bigger-picture things, and then do spot checks with groups about their experiences throughout the year,” Collinson says. “In 2020, we plan to use Net Promoter Score surveys to follow up with new customers and class participants after their visit or class.”

 

2. Keep It Simple for Members—and for You

Collinson has had success collecting data with online tools (they use Microsoft forms). “Collecting the data digitally makes it easier to aggregate the feedback and see what percentage of respondents have similar feedback for us,” he explains.

 

Online tools are great, but don’t expect people to download anything or take a bunch of steps to answer your questions. “We have had trouble getting customer to use apps or similar systems for that feedback,” Collinson says. “We want to avoid long surveys and too many surveys,” adds Tan.

 

3. Allow for Anonymity

It can be tough to provide constructive feedback when your name is attached—especially in the early stages of building a member feedback loop, when members haven’t yet learned they can trust that their feedback will be taken seriously. Make it as easy as possible for members to provide you with feedback.

 

“We have boxes at the front desk where people can leave anonymous notes,” says Monica Aranda, Director of Member Services at Touchstone Climbing & Fitness. “We also have anonymous text service at some gyms, and they can email us anytime through the website.”

 

4. Acknowledge Feedback

Even when you receive feedback anonymously, it’s possible to let your membership know you’re addressing it. “We respond to members directly on the [suggestion] cards and publish them on our community board,” Tan says. “Depending on the suggestion, we note if we're working on a solution, if the solution is happening, or if we cannot achieve what they want––and why.” This technique has the added benefit of answering a question other members probably have.

 

When members submit feedback to Touchstone, “we contact them directly with a personal email or phone call,” Aranda says.

 

5. Take Action—and Tell Members About It

5.Life fielded numerous comments about the difficulty of finding partners, so they implemented two new partner-finding systems. Tan can also recall tons of instances where Sender One acted on feedback—and members were thrilled. “At one of our facilities, we have time-restricted street parking, so someone suggested that we make a courtesy announcement to let people know when to move their cars,” she explains. “Our main parking lot clears out around that time, so now we give customers a heads up through our PA system so they can quickly resume their climbing!”

 

6. Reward Member Engagement

For a while, Collinson noticed a trend of members complaining about dirty holds. “We suspect it’s because brushing is not common practice in our community, so we’re examining including a brush with a new membership signup to try and increase the number of people brushing holds on their chosen routes.”

 

This can also mean rewarding existing members. “We usually raffle a month of free membership for those that participate in the survey,” Collinson says, pointing out that it’s a relatively small cost for the facility, but is a strong motivator for members to participate.

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  community development  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  marketing  member retention  operations 

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Activities for Adult Meetup Programs

Posted By Bix Firer and Pat Brehm, Monday, February 17, 2020
Activities for Adult Meetups

Climbing gyms are in the midst of expanding program offerings to ensure that their members’ needs are being met: fitness classes, climbing skill clinics, and community events, among other offerings.

 

A popular addition to these client services is member meetups for adults, usually structured to provide a time for members to socialize, climb, and meet new partners. At the Headwall Group, we’ve worked with many gyms who struggle to balance structured and free time to make these meetups feel meaningful and purposeful.

 

Here are a few tips and two activities that will add a lot to your next adult climbing meetup.

 

Make sure that your members know when the meetup starts and ends by having interaction with your staff:

It is essential that attendees feel led through a meetup and understand the role your gym plays in facilitating it. This can be accomplished by book-ending your meetup with gym staff.

 

Begin your program with a staff introduction and brief introductory activity that gets the group talking, moving, and sharing names. Be sure all meetup participants know your dedicated staff’s name and how to get in touch with them during the event.

 

At the end of each meetup, we suggest the same staff facilitate a way for folks to stay in touch with the gym and each other. Having participants sign a contact list after or developing a Facebook group for meet-up participants allows continued contact.

 

Facilitate new participant introductions:

Following is an easy and fun way to get folks interacting and familiar with each other. We suggest facilitating it in a quieter area, away from the hustle and bustle of the gym floor, for best results.

 

Activity Name: Beta Name Game

Category: Ice-Breaker, Introduction
Objective: Climbers will learn the names of the others in the group and will be introduced to key climbing concepts.
Equipment Needed: Enough space for the group to stand in a circle.

 

Rules:

  1. Climbers stand in a circle and are instructed that only one person should speak at a time.
  2. Each climber will take turns saying their name and their favorite climbing technique or hold type.
  3. That climber will then physically act out that technique or hold type. This can be done by pantomiming the movement.
  4. Then, together the entire group will repeat that person’s name AND movement.
  5. After each climber’s turn, the entire group will start with the first climber and repeat the name and movement of each climber, all the way around the circle until they get to the next climber in line.

Don’t be scared to add a structured activity:

While it might feel intimidating to facilitate a game for adults attending a meeting, they are there for the opportunity to meet new people. And, in our experience, adults who attend programs like meetups are open and excited to participate in new, fun activities.

 

The game listed below gets folks to share names, develop some common language, and step into a social, learning atmosphere. This activity sets your meetup participants off on their own, gets them interacting, and ensures they’re having fun!

 

Activity Name: Team Points

Category: Skill Building
Objective: Climbers’ cumulative V-Points or YDS points will reach a predetermined goal.
Equipment Needed: Bouldering area or top rope/lead climbing area with a high concentration of problems/routes with a wide range of grades. Pens, paper, and clipboards if available.

 

Rules:

  1. In a set amount of time (15 minutes to an hour) climbers must attempt to climb as many boulder problems or routes as possible.
  2. Each time an individual climber successfully climbs a problem or route they will add the number of V or YDS points to their running total. (Ex: If a climber climbs a V1, V2, and V3, they would have 6 points). Climbers keep track of their own progress on a piece of paper if available.
  3. Climbers can only climb a given route or problem ONE time each.
  4. When the timer runs out, climbers who are actively climbing may attempt to finish the route/problem they are on, otherwise all climbing stops.

How to Instruct: Tell the team that they will be working as individuals to contribute to a team goal. Explain the rules and announce the goal. The Point Goal should be challenging but attainable and the actual number will depend on the skill level of the group. Tell the team that if they reach the goal they will win the prize (in the case of an adult meetup, the gym could give away a buddy pass or piece of swag). Reconvene as a group at this end of independent activity to award prizes, answer questions that have come up, and give participants a chance to share contact information.

 

Bix Firer and Pat Brehm Head ShotAbout the Headwall Group

The Headwall Group distills the lessons learned as educators and leaders working in dynamic and high risk environments and brings them to youth-serving organizations. The Headwall group provides trainings, consultation, and curriculum development services that are rooted in our experience as outdoor experiential educators for climbing gyms, summer camps, and schools.

 

The Headwall Group was founded by Bix Firer and Pat Brehm. Bix Firer (MA, University of Chicago) is currently the Director of Outdoor Programs at College of Idaho and has worked as a wilderness educator, trainer, facilitator, and experiential educator for over a decade. Pat Brehm works as a professional organizational trainer and has spent his career as a climbing coach, facilitator, and outdoor educator.

 

Tags:  community development  customer experience  programming 

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CWA’s Public Policy Agenda: Protecting Our Sport

Posted By Robert Angell, Monday, February 17, 2020
Climbing Gym Regulations

If you are a gym owner or operator, chances are you have been approached by a representative of a government agency in your state at one time or another, and informed that the agency has begun, or is about to begin, a licensing and inspection scheme involving your operation. This article will walk you through the CWA’s stance on regulatory issues and how those issues can impact climbing wall operators like you.

 

Through its public policy agenda, the CWA works to prevent inappropriate licensing and inspection schemes that drive up costs for you and your members and may increase your members’ risk of injury.

 

The CWA’s public policy agenda includes the following policy statements:

 

The CWA’s public policy agenda involves educating our members on policy matters that may have an impact on their programs and businesses; promoting positive regulatory and business conditions for the industry; and promoting sound public policy regarding health, physical education and recreation. The CWA ... coordinates activity on the state and local levels to defend against policies, laws, or regulations that might be harmful to our members or the public.

 

Legislatures have proposed laws that would allow state or provincial governments to establish licensing requirements, enact regulations, and administer climbing gym inspections. Frequently this is accomplished by applying amusement licensing laws to sports and recreation facilities, which we oppose.

 

Several state legislatures have proposed bills that would severely restrict use of visitor or participation agreements, specifically weakening liability protections for the business owner[;] we maintain that these liability protections are necessary for the long term health and viability of a sport like climbing.

 

State amusement licensing laws were mainly enacted before the advent of the dedicated indoor climbing facility and are somewhat similar from state to state. Ohio’s law is fairly typical:

 

"Amusement ride" means any mechanical, aquatic, or inflatable device, or combination of those devices that carries or conveys passengers on, along, around, over, or through a fixed or restricted course or within a defined area for the purpose of providing amusement, pleasure, or excitement. (ORC 1711.50(A))

 

The three elements, “mechanical device,” “carries or conveys passengers on, along ... a fixed or restricted course,” and “purpose of providing amusement, pleasure, or excitement” are common to the pre-indoor climbing amusement statutes.

 

State agencies charged with regulating amusement devices and venues have indulged some tortured interpretations of these elements in order to fit commercial climbing walls into the amusement regulatory scheme. Most of these efforts involve the “mechanical device” and “fixed course” elements. State agencies have contended that carabiners, auto belays, holds, and harnesses fit the definition of “mechanical device.”

 

One state regulator even asserted that the wall itself is a “mechanical device” that “conveys passengers” to the top. The regulators then argue that the set routes on the walls fit the definition of “fixed course.”

 

The practice of classifying climbing walls as amusement devices has real-world consequences for the operator. States can:

  • impose high registration and licensing fees (which may be assessed per-wall instead of per-facility);
  • subject operators to inspections by inspectors trained to inspect amusement rides;
  • adopt operational standards designed for the amusement industry;
  • and subject operators to onerous penalties for failing to comply with the regulatory scheme, including hefty monetary penalties, cease-and-desist orders, and even criminal liability.

Classifying climbing gym employees as amusement workers may result in as much as a fivefold increase in workers’ compensation premiums. In turn, the cost of participation goes up.

 

The CWA does not oppose regulation per se. We recognize that state agencies are charged with protecting the public and ensuring competent operations. However, we believe that regulation should be appropriately tailored to the realities of our sport.

 

Our argument is that a commercial climbing gym is a training and fitness facility that cannot be appropriately regulated as an amusement venue, and that applying amusement regulations to our sport may result in increased risk to participants.

 

The CWA has developed valuable resources that help us to make those arguments, including the Industry Practices, standards for climbing wall instructors, work-at-height, design and engineering, structural inspections, and the ClimbSmart! program. This focus on the function of the facility has served us well in a number of states.

 

If state regulators come calling at your gym, we are ready to help! Give us a shout or an e-mail if you have questions or concerns.

 

Bob Angell Head ShotAbout the Author

Robert Angell is an Ohio- and Colorado-licensed attorney concentrating in the areas of administrative law, recreation, amusement, and entertainment law, and business formation. He served on the CWA Board of Directors from 2006 to 2013 and was reappointed to the Board in 2019. Bob has been instrumental in regulatory initiatives on behalf of CWA members across the U.S. since 2005. His clients include many gyms in Ohio and other states.

 

Tags:  certifications  operations  public policy  regulations  risk management  standards 

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Member Spotlight: DynoClimb

Posted By Alexandra Wojcicki, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
DynoClimb

Outdoor climbing opportunities in Florida are few and far between, but new climbing gyms in the region are finding strong markets to serve. Centralized between Daytona Beach and Orlando, DynoClimb, a gym in DeLand, opened its doors in the fall of 2019 and is already making waves.

 

This 10,000 sq. ft. facility offers primarily bouldering but also includes top rope and auto belay. The gym boasts a variety of yoga classes, featuring everything from hot yoga to yin yoga, and even stretching basics for climbing injury prevention. An abundance of group fitness classes serves a wide audience, offering guidance on functional fitness that translates beyond the wall to all aspects of life.

 

I reached out to Britt Frankel to get his insights on opening and running a new climbing gym in Florida.

 

Britt Frankel DynoClimb OwnerAlexandra Wojcicki: Is there anything that you’d like to share about the history of DynoClimb? For example, were there any obstacles that were unique to opening a gym in this area?

Britt Frankel: There weren’t many options when it came to taller buildings, so trying to find something that was suited to our needs was a process.

 

Originally, we were looking at providing more rope sections, and even lead climbing right off the bat. We planned to do a ground up build, but found an amazing existing location centralized in an up-and-coming area, a college town. The building was right off the main artery of the town, and the space offered opportunities for us to consider future expansions to gain those facets we wanted – more ropes and things like that.

 

We had to switch towards a bouldering focused mindset when it came down to it. That was the biggest obstacle, just making sure that we were being organic in our approach and doing our due diligence with ensuring that we were finding the right location.

 

AW: Are there plans in the works to open up more locations, and if so what have you learned from opening your first?

BF: Yes, we do have goals for opening future locations and expansions for our current location. We focused everything around building a strong brand.

 

Everyone can relate to what a “dino” is in terms of a dinosaur, and of course if you’re a more experienced climber you’re familiar with the term “dyno”. We felt that everyone would be able to relate to it, be it a strong climber, or someone new who has never climbed a day in their life.

 

Being able to brand and market that kind of relatability is so important. I feel that we have developed a strong brand that will allow us to open more locations in new areas.

 

What we’ve learned – well, opening a gym is hard for sure. From idea to fruition, it took us about 5 years. There were lots of trials and tribulations in finding a location and detecting that sweet spot in terms of demographics, especially as a first gym. There were roadblocks when it came to build outs – should we choose a ground up build or retrofit? There were a lot of lessons with what to look for in our future potential location.

 

DynoClimb Bouldering and Training Area

 

AW: Once a location was cemented, which wall builder did you choose?

BF: We decided to go with Eldorado Climbing Walls – we met them at the CWA Summit and built a great relationship with them. I really appreciated their mindset that everyone can climb. I appreciated their history as a company, and what they could do when it came to building walls.

 

The experience has been phenomenal with them. They did some amazing things with designing our brand integration while crafting cool features that our setters could work with in creating functional and unique climbs.

 

AW: What would you say sets your gym apart from other Florida climbing institutions?

BF: We have a very strong focus on community. Our motto is climb hard, stay humble, and have fun. We want people to feel that inclusivity when it comes down to their first day out.

 

As a beginner – you have that excitement, but also, you’re nervous. You’re seeing people crush V8s, yet you might barely be able to make it up a V0. However, when the people who are crushing V8s are cheering you on and giving you tips, it makes the whole transition into the sport so much more accessible and uplifting. We make sure that we have a very strong community and give back to that community as much as we can.

 

For us, what sets us apart from other gyms is that the community developed so quickly and became so strong. We’ve only been open for 6 months, but it feels like we’ve been open for a year and a half or two years. We hear it from our members all the time – we have such a strong community that from day one, it pulls you in and makes you want to be a part of it.

 

DynoClimb Auto Belays and Facility

 

AW: What project would you say you’re most excited about for the future?

BF: I would say we’re most excited about incorporating lead climbs and higher top rope structures. Our building allows for expansion, which is a cool factor that we planned on from the beginning.

 

Bouldering makes getting into climbing more accessible to people, but there are so many different specializations when it comes to climbing that we want to introduce our members to as many of those as we can.

 

We’re super excited to plan opportunities for expansion in terms of our building, like adding in a higher tower, where we can get climbs up to 50 – 60 feet high. There isn’t much in the realm of higher rope climbing currently in our area.

 

As primarily a bouldering gym, we look at opportunities for expansion as a way to give back to our community by developing locally available higher rope and lead climbs.

 

AW: What does it mean to DynoClimb to be a CWA member?

BF: It means everything. It honestly means we have a way to build relationships, to grow upon those relationships, to be part of an organization that wants to facilitate our growth and help the industry with the industry’s growth. It’s very supportive.

 

It’s amazing to be able to leverage the resources that we have through the CWA – it’s just a great way for us all to connect and stay interconnected. There are hundreds of gyms out there and for us to be able to connect and network and build those relationships, it’s quintessential.

 

It’s such an amazing part of the process that helps exponentially from the start, up through everyday activities.

 

Alexandra Wojcicki Head ShotAbout the Author

Alexandra Wojcicki is the Membership Manager at the Climbing Wall Association. She has a decade of experience working with nonprofit organizations on building member programs, managing partnerships, fundraising, and marketing. A Northern Virginia native, she is now based in Boulder, Colorado, as an enthusiastic climber, backpacker, camper, and traveler.

 

Tags:  marketing  member spotlight  real estate  startups 

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5 Marketing Techniques Every Gym Can Do

Posted By Emma Walker, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Marketing Techniques

What are the most successful gyms in the country doing? Sure, they’re using top-notch routesetters and keeping their programming fresh. But they’re also marketing their facilities in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd—something that becomes increasingly important as indoor climbing gains popularity.

 

Some facilities, like Akron, Ohio-based Rock Mill Climbing, aren’t in a market with a lot of geographic overlap, allowing them to leverage the sport of climbing itself and the unique sense of community it offers (as opposed to other fitness and social clubs) as advertising. “We work hard to serve and foster that community in the gym,” says Nick Muffet, Rock Mill’s Marketing & Community Director. “As long as we do that, it really speaks for itself.”

 

If you’re in a more saturated market, there’s an additional challenge, says Hannah Clack, Marketing & Events Coordinator at Ascent Studio in Fort Collins, Colorado. “We decided to take a highly active approach by providing as many community-oriented events, meetups, and clinics as we can fit on our monthly calendars.”

 

Here’s how you can ensure your gym is maximizing its marketing potential.

 

1. Build and Maintain a Consistent Voice

Part of making your facility stand out from the crowd is creating—and maintaining—a consistent brand and voice. That’s how your guests know what to expect when they walk in the door. This can be challenging, Clack says: “We aim to keep a certain style and cohesiveness across our promotions, but when you offer multiple events a week or month, promotions can start to blend together and disappear from your audience’s attention.”

 

“You've got to keep it fresh!” she adds.

 

2. Encourage Word-of-Mouth Marketing

As you build loyal members, encouraging them to bring others into the fold is crucial. “Word of mouth is by far the most powerful marketing channel,” says Muffet. “We like to make it easy for our members to bring in friends on guest passes and get store credit for referring new members.”

 

This goes beyond traditional marketing channels, too—the interactions and experiences guests have at your facility are what they’ll tell their friends about. One way to encourage members to talk about your facility is to employ a consistent hashtag in your social posts, and then feature members’ posts when they use it.

 

3. Optimize Your Social Channels

“Quality over quantity,” says Clack. “Genuine photos or videos are always better than graphics. If I need to post a graphic, I prefer to do it on an Instagram story [rather than a post]. It still gets seen and doesn't clog up your feed.”

 

“Content that actually provides value to the viewer always performs better,” Muffet adds. “We try to offer a lot of climbing tips for new climbers and post beta videos for boulder routes just before they come down.”

 

4. Automate Marketing to Free Up Time

Work smarter, not harder, Muffet recommends. “Anything that allows scheduling and automation frees up time and focus to work on higher level projects.”

 

This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. “We use Mailchimp,” Clack says. “It has plenty of pros, but I wish it was more customizable with its layouts. Either way, it gets the job done.”

 

5. Keep Your Existing Membership Engaged

“We're working to extend member retention by providing more resources and classes for our climbers to meet their goals at the gym—and to be celebrated when they do,” Muffet says. Ascent also does a monthly Member Appreciation Night with local vendors, local beer, and member challenges, along with several leagues and comps (small and large) and a Fitness Challenge each year.

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  community development  customer experience  marketing  member acquisition  member retention 

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