Chris Weidner: The climbing gym explosion — is Boulder saturated or just getting started?

Chris Weidner Wicked Gravity

Rumors flew. Anxiety thickened the air. And then it finally happened: The Spot Bouldering Gym opened just a half mile away from Boulder’s only other climbing gym: the Boulder Rock Club.

It was 2002 and as an employee of the BRC I, and many others, worried our facility would take an irreparable hit. I mean, how could a small town like Boulder possibly support two climbing gyms?

Then in 2009, while both gyms flourished, Movement Climbing + Fitness opened two blocks from the BRC.

“Everyone thought we were crazy,” said Anne-Worley Moelter, Movement co-owner with her husband, Mike Moelter. “We were opening another gym in a town of 100,000.”

Surely this would spell the end for someone.

Wrong again. In fact, the opposite happened: all three gyms grew busier!

“Historically we’ve seen that when a new gym opens there’s an immediate re-shuffling of some customers, but within a few months things settle, and within a few years the whole market has grown,” said one manager in Boulder.

From the time the BRC opened in 1992 until Movement opened 17 years later, five climbing gyms popped up between Boulder and Denver.

Today, five gyms have opened, or are opening, in a two-year span. And at least five gym companies are planning to build another Front Range climbing gym after 2018.

“Some investors say climbing gyms are the new tech investment,” said one West Coast climbing gym owner.

“There seems to be a race for a land grab right now,” said Anne-Worley Moelter. “People are just trying to stake their claim and get it out there, ‘I’m building this many gyms in this number of years.’ ”

“We have more climbers identified per capita than anywhere else,” said Jason Haas,…

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