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Member Spotlight: DynoClimb

Posted By Alexandra Wojcicki, Tuesday, February 4, 2020

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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Member Spotlight: The Boulder Field

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Tuesday, July 9, 2019
The Boulder Field

California has the most climbing facilities of any state in the US, but new gyms are still finding markets to serve. One prime example is The Boulder Field, a Sacramento gym that opened doors in the spring of 2018.


With 10,000 feet of bouldering terrain and walls up to 14 feet high, The Boulder Field aims to provide a holistic climbing and fitness club. The facility also includes a fitness area, a yoga studio, a locker room with showers and saunas, and a café serving local coffee and beer. The building, a 33,000 sq. ft. warehouse, uses an open layout to create social and work spaces off the bouldering mats.


California has a deep climbing heritage, and The Boulder Field is no exception — the founders are none other than Black Diamond athlete Carlo Traversi and his brother David Traversi. We reached out to Carlo to get his perspective on starting a business and opening a gym.


CWA: California is a state with a vibrant history and culture of climbing, and you bring a wealth of experience as a professional climber. How did this perspective inform your mission and approach with The Boulder Field?


CT: As a native Californian and a longtime member of the climbing community, my goal with The Boulder Field was to take all of the things I've learned from working in climbing gyms over the past 16 years and create an environment that better cultivates and serves the local community.


CWA: Were there any challenges you think are unique to the history of The Boulder Field?


CT: Nothing stands out as unique in terms of challenges. However, I'm not very familiar with the challenges of other operations. Our development process was fairly quick and smooth. The only real issues we dealt with were final permitting problems with the City of Sacramento, but those challenges weren't unique, and we were able to deal with them rather quickly.


CWA: The location and layout of The Boulder Field seem to be central features of the gym. What was your philosophy in creating an open-layout bouldering gym with elements like a cafe and work spaces?


CT: The open-layout idea hasn't really been executed in other facilities to the same degree that we have. Mostly we wanted to have plenty of space for people to congregate off the mats. The café and ample work spaces are obvious additions that serve this mentality.


CWA: The Boulder Field is currently based in Sacramento — are there plans to open up more locations, and if so, what have you learned from opening your first?


CT: We are always keeping an eye out for new locations to extend our reach, but we don't have any new developments on the radar at this time. We have learned a ton from opening our first facility and we are obviously still learning a lot to this day. The biggest thing that I've learned is how important it is to surround yourself with a solid, hardworking team. Nothing great is done alone.


CWA: What sets The Boulder Field apart from other California climbing institutions?


CT: Community, culture, and quality. We are consistently striving to be the best on a daily basis. Also, very few gyms have owners that are climbing in the gym as many hours per day as I do.


CWA: What does it mean to The Boulder Field to be a CWA member?


CT: Being a member of the CWA means playing a role in the system of support and the sharing of information that keeps the indoor climbing industry thriving.


CWA: What's the biggest challenge The Boulder Field is currently facing?


CT: Our biggest challenge, and it's one we welcome with open arms, is how do we continue to better serve our community and our members in the best possible way.




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Member Spotlight: The Gravity Vault

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2019
Gravity Vault

Gravity Vault Founder Lucas Kovalcik was partway through grad school when he decided that New Jersey could use a climbing gym. Together with Tim Walsh, he opened the first Gravity Vault in 2005.


After four years, the pair launched a second location, and in 2013 the first franchisee-owned location opened its doors. Today, Gravity Vault numbers six locations in New Jersey, two in New York, and one in Pennsylvania. In the near future, Gravity Vault plans to open four new locations in four separate states.


We reached out to Lucas to learn about the challenges of managing locations numbering in the double digits.


CWA: Are there any lessons you learned during those first years that you took into the later years of expanding the franchise and opening new locations?


LK: If you think about the landscape 14 years ago, what people’s perception was even of indoor rock climbing, it was certainly more of an extreme sport. One where the perception of our industry from the banking world, the real estate world was not one of favor. I tell the story that our first landlord asked me the question: “So if I lease you this space, how are you going to get the rocks inside the building?” I still laugh at it today.


CWA: Were there any challenges that were unique to this area or to Gravity Vault?


LK: I think that we were fortunate (or unfortunate, however you want to look at it) to be part of paving the way a little bit. We used the small business administration, the SBA, for some of our first bank loans to open our first few locations. There wasn’t a lot of history, even on the national level, with the SBA. Once we got our first couple of deals, we had a number of people calling us as referrals and references looking to use our successful banking relationship (that was underwritten with the SBA) for other banks to look at as a model.

Climbers at Gravity Vault

One thing that was unique to us in New Jersey was that we were originally governed by the Department of Community Affairs…we were actually considered amusement operators, and carnies, if you will. I had a “ride operator” license to operate the ride that we call indoor rock climbing.


CWA: What’s the biggest challenge in managing different locations in the current era of GV?


LK: In having multiple locations around the east coast and in different markets, what is good for one gym or one market isn’t always good for another. So it’s really just continuing to find a balance of the right programming, which I use as an umbrella term for everything from our classes to camps to lessons to adult programs. There’s not one widget that fits all.


CWA: What do you think sets GV apart from other east coast franchises?


LK: We strive to be as much of a customer service-based facility as a climbing gym. We try to be extremely welcoming, to that beginning climber or to that seasoned climber. We want to be able to be an un-intimidating environment while being a challenging environment to the climber. That’s a delicate balance, and that’s what we’ve strived to do and continue to work on.

Gravity Vault Facility Interior

CWA: What projects are you most excited about for the future?


LK: I have a vivid memory of a family that was there from day one just to check the place out. The daughter joined our climbing team after a few times and had a knack and a natural talent. She went up to competing at the national level, and the whole family moved to Colorado. From being in Chatham, NJ, having never experienced climbing and never touched a wall, to falling in love with this sport, finding a talent, and moving across the country…it’s just exciting. It’s something that’s forever engrained as part of their life. In a way, we were part of it. So what I’m most excited about as we continue to grow and open more locations is exposing more people to the sport that I enjoy.


CWA: What value does GV get out of its CWA membership?


LK: I think having that peer-to-peer community to discuss, whether you’re operating a gym in the northeast or the southwest or the northwest or southeast…we all face a lot of the same challenges on a day-to-day basis. I think having a group of individuals that are like-minded, and having that peer-to-peer interaction, is important for any industry to continue to grow. Yes, we’ve gotten to this point, and we’ve grown, and we have the Olympics coming in 2020, and the sport will continue to grow. I think the CWA continues to offer a platform of support for everything from group insurance carriers to overall advice.




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Member Spotlight: Triangle Rock Club

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Monday, February 4, 2019
Triangle Rock Club

Climbing gym operators often bring a diverse set of experiences to running a gym, but few more so than Joel Graybeal, Managing Partner at Triangle Rock Club. After working as an aerospace engineer at the Pentagon, he worked as a banker for 14 years before joining the ownership team at TRC in 2011.


Triangle Rock Club opened its first location in Morrisville, NC in 2007. Founded by two former Marines, TRC now operates four locations in two states and has a fifth location slated to open in 2019. We reached out to Joel to find out what it takes to run gyms in the mid-Atlantic.


CWA: It was six years between the opening of the first Triangle Rock Club and opening your second location. Are there lessons that have carried forward from the early years into managing all five of your locations?


JG: There are certainly more than a few lessons that we've carried forward. Here are a few:

  1. It's important that we earn our customers' business every day.
  2. In order to grow, it's important to take daily steps moving your business forward.
  3. We always need to be ready to take advantage of a good opportunity.
  4. Where we focus our time, energy, and resources is where we'll get our results.
  5. Hire great people who are aligned with your company's mission and give them the resources to move the company forward.

CWA: What has been the greatest challenge in expanding to new locations?


JG: Capital is always a challenge. Because of our desire to stay independent and to not dilute current ownership, we've had to continue tricking banks into buying into our vision. In addition to funding new locations, there's always a need to continue investing in current locations. As probably any climbing gym operator can attest, there are limitless ways to spend money when you own a climbing gym.


CWA: What sets Triangle Rock Club apart from other east-coast franchises?


JG: We have a singular mission statement that we think drives our company behavior and decisions: to enhance and transform the lives of others by enthusiastically sharing our passion for climbing and fitness. That mission statement is a great compass for our company. Something else that might be different is that we have phased four out of five of our gyms. It's allowed us to open earlier, start building the community, and then have a planned enhancement later. We've been able to "throttle" our growth and manage expenses by designing our projects to be phased.


Lastly, we've been a big user of SBA funding to grow our business. We've completed five rounds of funding and are in process for our sixth. While the paperwork is rather arduous, SBA has allowed us to keep our equity infusions lower plus give us fixed-rate financing for 20 years. That all translates to long-term fixed costs for our real estate, and it makes getting to cash-flow positive quicker.

Triangle Rock Club

CWA: What's the biggest challenge TRC is currently facing?


JG: Access to capital at good terms is always a top need and challenge for us. We're looking at future opportunities in the context of our current expansion commitments. With our business so capital intensive, getting loans at favorable terms is always important. I keep asking our bank partners for a $5M unsecured credit line at prime - 1% but haven't been able to talk anyone into lending to us on those terms!


CWA: What projects are you most excited about for the future?


JG: Triangle Rock Club Durham is going to be our best laid-out and most balanced gym yet. We had a lot of flexibility laying out the space, which is ironically in a previous Walmart (built in 2011). It's going to be a terrific gym. Plus, our Phase 2 ground-up addition to our Richmond gym will be a phenomenal enhancement to our Phase 1, which opened in April 2018.


CWA: What does it mean to Triangle Rock Club to be a CWA member?


JG: We've been proud to participate as an active member in CWA. For the last 12 years, Triangle Rock Club has been represented at the annual CWA Summit. Helping our industry grow and thrive has been important to us. Others before us have been gracious in helping us get started. We, in turn, have strived to be a good resource for new and aspiring gym owners. For every one person in the US that has a climbing gym membership, there are 100 people who have a monthly fitness or health club membership. If we as an industry convert just one out of a hundred regular gym members, we double the size of our industry. Growing and working together through an industry organization like the CWA is important for all of our futures.




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