WORLD INDOOR CLIMBING SUMMIT TO DEBUT
—Every year more than 1 million people worldwide climb for the first time in a gym—
The boom in indoor climbing is remarkable considering just 20 years ago indoor walls were dusty, dark, often converted industrial sheds or garages. Today’s gym would be unrecognizable to those early indoor climbers. Spacious and well-lit, the modern climbing gym is an inviting architectural wonder that can incorporate a fitness area, yoga studio, specialized kid zone, cafes, and retail shops.
Thanks to such upgrades, the number of climbing gyms has increased by 50 percent since 2007. One wall manufacturer, Walltopia, has seen its projects surge an average of 45 percent every year since 2012. “With such an incredible growth of the industry,” says Walltopia COO Ivaylo Krastev, “gym owners, manufacturers, gym managers and those looking to open their own gyms need to think globally—to hear different opinions, to exchange experiences, learn how others face challenges, and talk about the future of indoor climbing together.”
This is why, June 7 through June 9, Walltopia will host the first major global gathering for the climbing-gym industry. Convening in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capitol city at the foot of the Vitosha mountain massif, the World Indoor Climbing Summit (WICS) will focus on the business of indoor climbing, such as where the future of indoor climbing is headed and how the Olympics will affect indoor climbing. For three days, gym owners and industry professionals from over 15 different countries will share experiences and ideas, and discuss hot topics.
MARKET DIVERSITY AND POTENTIAL
"Over 50 percent of our clients have never been outdoor
climbing on a real rock, and they have no interest in that."
—Jeffery Bowling, Business Development Manager for Touchstone Climbing
Traditionally, climbing as a sport and equipment sales were limited to regions in North America and Western Europe with nearby rock and alpine climbing. Indoor climbing, however, has no such geographical restrictions. Many young, winning competitors are from areas with no outdoor-climbing scene. Flatlands such as Illinois and Texas, for example, are opening massive 25,000-square-foot indoor gyms.
As long as there are people who want to train or socialize in a gym, then indoor climbing is a prospective business for that area. At WICS, attendees will hear success stories from climbing-gym operators in a variety of markets with diverse climbing traditions, market maturity and ethnic diversity. “Some of the most successful gyms,” says Krastev, “are in urban areas hundreds of miles from climbing areas. The questions are: How do you know where there are too few, or too many, gyms in a region? Can we look at different industries such as that of fitness centers and learn from them? How far will people commute to a climbing gym? These are some of the topics we’ll explore at the WICS.”
"We attend over 20 conferences for the amusement industry, but there are only three events for the indoor-climbing industry, and those are for local markets."
—Alexandra Hristova, Walltopia’s head of marketing.
The WICS was conceived last summer at Walltopia’s headquarters during a gathering of climbing-gym experts from Europe, North America and the Middle East. The occasion triggered interesting and inspirational discussions about current problems, trends and business models in indoor climbing, as well as talk of where the industry is headed, and what is to be expected in the coming years. Those discussions were so productive it made sense to expand them on a global scale, and the WICS was born.
WICS will consist of two main parts: a conference and an exhibition. The conference will include panels featuring two dozen climbing-gym owners and professionals from around the globe who will share their views and ideas on the hottest topics concerning our community.
A few of the topics will include:
• First steps for opening a new gym including finding financing: what it takes to get approved for a loan, lease or a real estate fund; how they each work and what experiences people have already had.
• Finding a gym location and a building.
• Deciding on what type of walls you need to serve the demographic specifics of your target groups.
• Technical details and specs for gym engineering.
• Route setting and flooring.
Discussions will be open—attendees are encouraged to participate. You will find the conference schedule and list of confirmed speakers on the WICS website.
The WICS will also host an exhibition area where manufacturers and suppliers from the industry can showcase their latest products, and meet potential clients and partners. Attendees will have the opportunity to host presentations after applying online and receiving approval for their proposed topics.
Gym owners and industry experts from countries including the U.S.A., Australia, the U.K., Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Slovenia, the U.A.E., Malaysia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Belgium and more have already secured their spots in the conference. We encourage everyone in the indoor-climbing industry to attend—your experiences and participation are important for helping the industry as a group move forward.
THE CHERRY ON TOP
Climbing at Walltopia Climbing Center will be free for all attendees throughout the event. Besides that, after three days of business talk, the WICS team will loosen things up by hosting the rooftop party of the year at Walltopia’s headquarters near the WICS conference hall. All visitors are invited to grab a drink, enjoy the sunset, and then dance the night away!