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Facility Profile - January 2008

Working With Gravity

Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul, Minn., Duluth, Minn., and Warrenville, Ill.

By Emily Tipping


L
ong considered a sport with natural barriers to entry, climbing is becoming mainstream as an increasing number of climbing walls are added to schools, health clubs and recreation centers across the United States.

Since 1992, Vertical Endeavors, a full-service indoor climbing facility, has been building its business in conjunction with the sport's growing popularity, starting with a "typical" commercial climbing gym in St. Paul, Minn. Since that first location was built, two more facilities have been added, in quite different locations: one in an upscale LifeTime Fitness Health Club in Warrenville, Ill., and another in Duluth, Minn., in a Family Fun Center. All three of the facilities feature climbing walls from Nicros Inc. The development came full circle in 2004, when Vertical Endeavors completed a substantial addition to its flagship facility in St. Paul. Vertical Endeavors is thriving, according to Jason Noble, district supervisor for all three facilities, and between them, more than 10,000 new climbers are introduced every year to the sport.

"Climbing is a challenge sport in which participants experience a feeling of accomplishment based on their level of challenge," said Scott Williams, facility manager for the Warrenville location. "This level is completely variable as challenges are available for people of all athletic abilities, size, weight, age, mental attitude, etc. In addition, climbing is an adrenaline sport. Making it to the top of a scary route or a difficult route is an adrenaline rush—one not easily duplicated, and one that often engages people who are not as apt to participate in team sports."

In search of that adrenaline rush, climbers of all stripes can come to Vertical Endeavors and find a wide variety of programs at various levels of difficulty to engage them and get them hooked on the sport.

"A full-scale climbing gym like Vertical Endeavors offers a wide array of programming, including recreational climbing teams, competitive climbing teams, high school intramural sports, adult training programs, social get-togethers, sanctioned competitions, private lessons, team-building programs, group events, outdoor lessons and trips, advanced training, climbing clinics, demos and climbing presentations, to name a few," Williams said.

Kids in this age group—too old for the playground, too young for the health club—represent an excellent target market for climbing facilities. And with its focus on individual goals and challenges, indoor climbing makes a perfect alternative for kids who eschew traditional school sports, helping to combat childhood inactivity and obesity. Because it's so much fun, it makes it easy to "trick" kids into getting a workout.

"Indoor rock climbing is great for children and teens, simply because it provides the opportunity to try a more exciting activity than traditional school sports and workout plans," Williams explained. "Rock climbing programming also offers metaphors to life, like teamwork, communication, problem-solving, conquering fear, etc."