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Why a Demand for Climbing Gyms Will Increase Once COVID-19 Restrictions End

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 13, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2020

While COVID-19 has continued to wreak havoc on the sports calendar, it is useful to examine some trends of interest in specific sports that will be influencing the sports facility construction industry when the threat has passed.

One specific sport that was seeing enormous upticks of interest (prior to everything grinding to a halt) was sport climbing, which makes its medal debut at the summer Olympics next year. The sport has already established a place for itself on the international level in the World Games and interest continues to grow. Stateside, the sport is already seeing huge growth. In fact, to hear industry experts talk about it, it’s the darling of the Millennial demographic.

According to the most recent State of Climbing report from the American Alpine Club, that age group is not only trying out the sport, but they’re buying into it and prior to COVID-19, was taking out membership in the growing number of rock-climbing gyms around the nation. Also seemingly showing interest in climbing are functional fitness aficionados (i.e. the CrossFit contingent).

And climbing is social media-friendly, something else that appeals to Millennials. According to The Cut, “bouldering is very Instagrammable — the 2.7 million Instagram posts currently tagged #bouldering depict walls covered in bright, rainbow-colored lumps, and bodies which look inherently athletic, even virtuous, for attempting to navigate them.”

Back in the fall, The New York Times, which did an in-depth study of climbing among Millennials, noted, “Young professionals flock to [rock climbing gyms] after work because the exercise is intense, unstructured and sociable; the gyms may be one of the last urban locales where talking to strangers is encouraged."

And there's still going to be plenty of exposure for the sport, despite the stay-at-home restrictions. There are movies about climbing as well as multiple videos online about the sport, as well as at-home workouts to help individuals hone their strength in lieu of actually climbing -- meaning it's likely the interest will stay strong.

Many states have large population centers but still lack climbing gyms. And the success of the gyms in places without as many areas to climb actual rock formations (in other words, those not in mountainous or hilly areas but in the flatlands) has proven that people don’t need to be training for actual outdoor climbing in order to want to buy into this as a form of fitness. So it may be that sports builders serving indoor facilities as well as manufacturers of climbing walls will see an uptick once restrictions loosen.

In its 2018 Industry Report, the Climbing Wall Association projected revenue growth percentages well into the double digits for both 2019 and 2020, with the indoor climbing industry poised to break the billion-dollar mark in 2021. Gym operators were reporting strong growth in both membership and program offerings. Obviously, this was before the advent of COVID-19 and its restrictions – but it is likely business trends will begin to resume when the fitness economy opens back up.

So according to the experts, we can expect to see a demand for climbing gyms – or even just climbing walls in existing gyms – skyrocket when gyms reopen. And here too, there could be advantages. It may be that when facilities do start operating again, they may be limited to a lower capacity in order to allow individuals to keep a healthful distance from one another. By getting individuals to make appointments for use of both the wall and a belayer, the chance of overcrowding would be decreased – and an additional revenue stream could be realized.

Tags:  bouldering  climbing gyms  climbing walls  CrossFit  cross-training  functional fitness  gym membership  indoor recreation  indoor sports facilities  Olympic climbing  Olympic sport climbing  Olympic sports  outdoor recreation  rock climbing  sport climbing  sports in the age of COVID-19 

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Will the Increase in Americans' Exploration of Outdoor Recreation Spaces During COVID-19 Drive a Need for Sports Facility Construction and Maintenance Once Virus Threat Has Ended?

Posted By Mary Helen Sprecher, Monday, April 6, 2020
Updated: Thursday, March 26, 2020

Well, there might be a silver lining to the coronavirus, once it passes and the world’s health has returned – and oddly, it could benefit the sports facility industry.

Despite the fact that a recent study showed that outdoor recreation in the U.S. was down markedly in 2018, many individuals and families are using their quarantine time to explore the great outdoors. In fact, early observations show walking paths, local fishing holes, playgrounds, hiking trails and parks are all seeing an unprecedented uptick in visitors.

Ultimately, that has driven an awareness an awareness of municipal facilities, including local tennis and pickleball courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts (sand and regular) – and plenty of others.

On March 18, the National Park Service announced it would be waiving entrance fees indefinitely (however, according  to SGB Media, that decision came one day after the agency closed several large parks – including Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Everglades, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Point Reyes the Washington Memorial and the Statue of Liberty – following overcrowding concerns).

We actually already have early indications a trend toward the outdoors was beginning just prior to COVID-19. Georgia became the fifth state to partner with FLW and The Bass Federation (TBF) in offering bass fishing as a sanctioned varsity sport. The change, reported by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), will go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year.

Another activity seeing a strong uptick is running. Outside Online noted, “As a number of people have already observed in the ominously mono-themed Twittersphere, running is the optimal sport for a time when everyone is encouraged to avoid crowded, enclosed spaces whenever possible.”

And with more people discovering running, it’s likely there will be more teens looking into track & field when quarantine measures are over and students return to school.

All of this activity has the potential to drive an uptick in the need to keep facilities. And while we have no way of knowing when the threat of the virus will pass, we know that China has begun opening some of its tourist attractions, shuttered since January 24. A timeline of the emergence of the virus in China, and its spread across the globe, can be found here. However, those seeking to establish a parallel timeline need to understand that a study published in March indicated that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95 percent and the geographic spread of the virus limited. The timeline clearly demonstrates that China's cover-up and the delay in serious measures to contain the virus lasted about three weeks.

Ultimately, however, the country will emerge from the need for social distancing and from self-isolation and when it does, it will need sports more than ever – not just to watch but to participate in. And that will help drive economic recovery for our industry, as well as others.

Tags:  basketball courts  bass fishing  Bassmaster  coronavirus  COVID-19  FLW  hiking trails  jogging  jogging paths  national parks  outdoor recreation  pickleball courts  recreational sports  running  tennis courts  track & field  volleyball courts  walking paths 

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