Feature Article - April 2008
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Scaling New Heights

Harness the Popularity of Climbing to Take Your Facility to the Top

By Kelli Anderson

Reaching the Summit:
Good Programming

No matter how breathtaking the climbing structure, in the end, without good programming, it can become nothing more than a very expensive decoration. Here are some programming suggestions that have been key to the success of facilities with climbing walls:

  • Know thyself: Identify your target audiences and state your mission's desired outcomes clearly to chart your course and differentiate yourself from the competition. Are you more about sport? Recreation? Social interaction? Or education? Are your patrons all ages? Mostly newbies or diehard climbers?
  • Get competitive: Perhaps nothing builds a program faster than creating competitive opportunities—especially for kids. From casual, competitive fun nights offering prizes to serious high school and university teams, this is where the youth market can reach amazing new heights.
  • Go progressive: Offer classes to increase climbing levels. When you promote them from the "Spiders" class to the next "Tarantula" level, kids enjoy the fun of belonging to groups that help them excel.
  • Adults only: As much as we love our children, there are times when they can figuratively make us climb the walls. Offering adult-only climbing courses and hours can give everyone a much-needed break.
  • Theme it: Offer themed nights like women's night out, glow-in-the-dark nights, band nights or nights to invite a friend. The sky's the limit.
  • A league of their own: Less formal than bowling, teams of four meet each week for several weeks to climb and submit their highest climbing scores. Winners get to split the entrance fees as their reward for a job well done.
  • Challenge them: Create challenges like a mile-high challenge or scaling Mount Everest to create a goal for patrons to reach over a period of time.
  • Change routes: Boredom is the enemy of the climbing wall. Be sure to change routes often to keep climbing experiences fresh.
  • Teach to the test: Assuming that a simple-to-climb bouldering wall will be fun in and of itself will lead to bored users after one or two climbs. Though they require little to no equipment, bouldering walls still require education. Teaching newbies the strategies and methods of climbing will reveal the fun of the challenge.