Building a climbing gym can be a complex process, and one of the key decisions is finding the perfect site for your masterpiece. There are quite a few things to consider when looking for the ideal site, so we’ve pulled together a few points that you need to keep in mind.
Parking and Access
Parking is actually a bigger issue than most people realise. There will be a certain number of spaces required by your council for a sport and recreational venue to operate. Sometimes (but rarely) there are concessions in place to allow your facility to operate with less than is usually required, but this is a discussion you need to have with your building certifier. Having close access to public transport can assist with this. Commonly, a reasonable percentage of your clientele will use public transport or bike ways to access your gym, so you need to keep this in mind.
Is it a concrete, brick or tin building?
While climbing facilities can be built in almost any building, some cost more than others to assemble the walls. If you have a concrete building, we can often attach the climbing substructure to the building walls, minimising the expense of your steel. However, brick buildings are incredibly weak when taking the attachment of a climbing wall structure. Generally, these will need to have a freestanding climbing wall and may require additional strength in your concrete foundations. Tin buildings can be as good as concrete, or as bad as brick. Generally large industrial i-beams are great for attaching climbing walls to, however if these are spaced too far apart or are too small, we may need to design your walls to be freestanding.
Try to identify the strength and thickness of your foundations
Understanding the strength of your foundations ahead of time is incredibly difficult. However, any building drawings or concrete scans can provide adequate information for a reasonable assessment to be made. If your building is going to require a freestanding climbing wall, then generally you need extremely thick concrete foundations to take the heavy weight and loads generated. If we can attach the climbing wall to your building (for example, a concrete structure) then your foundations might not need to be as thick or robust. Industrial warehouses will more often than not have a thicker concrete slab compared to a site like a retail shop. The exact thickness of a foundation varies from project to project. Sometimes foundations can be as thin as 135mm, and can go up to 500mm. If you need to lay additional foundations to take the weight of your wall, this can be an extra cost in your budget – so be prepared.
Height vs size of floor area
If you’re opening a bouldering facility, your roof will ideally be between 3.5m and 7m in height. On the lower end you could have a bouldering wall with matting at 3m, and 0.5m for clearance above the wall. With a taller room you could have 7m or more in height, allowing for a top out boulder with matting at 4.5m, and 2.5m space for a person to stand on top of the boulder. However, the more height you have the better. Most facilities we build walls for have a roof height of about 5.5m.
For a roped wall facility, your walls can ideally be anywhere from 8m to 15m tall. Whilst roped walls can be built lower or higher, we find this to be the optimal height from both a commercial climber’s perspective, and a financial investment perspective. If you build your walls too high, this will only cater to a smaller market, and this is the same for if you build too low. That being said, when you lease or buy a facility the costs generally come from the floor surface area, not the height that you’re using. Understanding your ideal floor area is just as important as understanding your height for this reason. Facilities can operate in as small a space as 300m2, and can go up to the thousands. The more floor area you have, the bigger the capacity for number of climbers you can fit in your facility. Even if your walls are higher, this does not necessarily mean you can fit more climbers into your venue. Because of this, getting a balance between height vs floor is important.
Historically climbing facilities have been in industrial areas due to the height required and low leasing costs, and these proved to be hugely successful despite their remote locations. However in modern times, commercial climbing facilities are creeping their way into more showroom and retail locations – increasing visibility and access to the venue. Understanding where your facility needs to be situated and what rent you can afford is paramount.
So to recap, when you’re looking for the ideal site for your amazing climbing gym, it’s critical to consider:
- Where your customers are going to park or how they’re going to access your facility,
- What the building is made out of,
- How thick your building foundation is and what loads it can take,
- The building height you require and floor space you will need, and
- The best location for your climbing facility
If you keep all of these things in mind, you’re well on your way to building the climbing centre of your dreams! The next step in the process is negotiating a lease.