New technology and the right programming can make your climbing wall stand out
By Kyle Ryan
They just look cool.
When there's a climbing wall in the house, it draws attention. People are mesmerized. Gone are the days of molded plastic holds bolted on to sheets of plywood. These days, technology has out-rocked rock itself. Walls look and feel so real that they give the impression you built your rec center around a natural outcropping. People will come from near and far to try it out.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF LINCOLN PARK ATHLETIC CLUB||A. SCOGGINGS PHOTOGRAPHER COURTESY SOLID ROCK WALL SYSTEMS||PHOTO COURTESY OF SKYDEX AND DAN SMITH OF THE SPOT BOULDERING GYM|
|Above photos, left to right: Danny Bobrow scales Lincoln Park Athletic Club's outdoor ice-climbing wall in Chicago; Solid Rock Gym in San Diego; The Spot Bouldering Gym in Boulder, Colo.|
Or will they?
Technology, it turns out, isn't everything. Innovations in climbing walls also come from somewhere else: programming. Without it, a climbing wall is just another expensive sculpture. Take this hypothetical example.
"An owner puts a climbing wall in and puts staff out there," says Nate Postma, an executive with a manufacturer of climbing-wall systems. "He doesn't immediately get the response he wants, so pretty soon he starts cutting down on labor and hours. You can perpetuate a negative thing because people aren't using it, and they're not using it because the damn thing's never open."
The tao of climbing walls, Postma says, is this: Form a line. People aren't interested in things they don't see other people using.
"If a line forms, everyone gets in it and wants to know what it's about," he says.
Here are some developments that will help keep a line at your place.