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Starting a climbing gym in Columbia SC


Original Post
Nathan Hayes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 0

I've been thinking about opening a climbing gym in my hometown of Columbia, SC as the only gym in the city closed back in 2015. I haven't heard of any plans to build a new one either. The old gym closed due to poor management it was old and outdated and needed many renovations. The original owner sold the climbing gym and the new owners weren't into climbing. After a few years of ownership they closed they original gym and opened relocated in a different area of the city without climbing walls, just as an athletic club. 

Mike Byrnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

Go for it, I had a woody at my house when I lived in Columbia for that very reason. Just remember that the USC gym has a wall which is free for their students, so I wouldn’t count on too much participation from the college crowd. Maybe try a larger gym in the suburbs slightly outside of the city more suited to kids and family’s? As much as I hate to say it that’s where the moneys at

AField · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2011 · Points: 25

Talk to Chris Neal.

rock-fencer · · Columbia, SC · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 265

I suggest you talk to other locals in the area that where vested in stronghold prior to it’s closure. Chris Neal is one person for sure. There is a group working towards this goal for a while now. Even pre stronghold closure. Also check out thye columbia climbers group on Facebook. I don’t live there any longer and don’t know who else is around. 

Leo Rose · · Columbia · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

I wish we had a gym in Columbia.  I went to Stronghold a couple of times when it was open.  I liked it but I was a poor college kid at the time and found it way too expensive.  I had just moved from another town that had three gyms and it cost me less than $5 a visit to climb at each of them.  Stronghold was like sticker shock for me.  I spent $20 a week climbing at my old gyms.  At stronghold it was too expensive per trip so I never went.

USC has a free gym for students so you won't get the USC crowd now.

If you get something going I would definitely come in now.  I have thought of starting a gym here myself but with so little outdoor climbing here I couldn't see the math working out to make any money. 

Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,046

Please do!  When I visit family in that area there is nothing climbing-related to do.

Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 170

Maybe there's no gym for a reason.

Benandstuff · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 572

 Doing a quick search of demographics on the USFactfinder site suggests that the population in Columbia/Lexington would easily support a climbing gym. I have been to Columbia a few times and building somewhere between Lexington and Columbia would probably be your best bet, unless there is any significant downtown development going on that would be easy to get in on the ground floor with. Of course you will probably end up wherever the right space is. As you might expect, climbing gyms need a very specific and rare type of space to work. This, and financing, are the major hurdles. Of course.

I am opening a bouldering gym in Winston-Salem, NC. I am in the late phases of opening. Columbia was somewhere I was always confused why it didn't have a decent (or any) gym, just like Winston. Shoot me a message and we can get in touch. There are a few ingredients needed in getting your project to come to life, but it would be easier to talk about them via phone or e-mail.

Brad Caldwell · · Deep in the Jocassee Gorges · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,285
AField wrote:

Talk to Chris Neal.

I second getting in touch with Chris Neal...he has had ambitions of opening a gym in Cola for many years and together you two might be better able to get it done.

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 481

Someone once ran the numbers and found out that kids' birthday parties drove most of the climbing revenues at the old gym---they apparently made more money from birthday groups than from memberships for those who were there mainly for the climbing. Just thought it interesting, and it might be relevant to whatever business plan you come up with.

Josh Gates · · Wilmington, DE · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 3
Benandstuff wrote:

I am opening a bouldering gym in Winston-Salem, NC. I am in the late phases of opening. Columbia was somewhere I was always confused why it didn't have a decent (or any) gym, just like Winston. Shoot me a message and we can get in touch. There are a few ingredients needed in getting your project to come to life, but it would be easier to talk about them via phone or e-mail.

Wow - where in W-S? That's where I grew up!

Benandstuff · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 572
Josh Gates wrote:

Wow - where in W-S? That's where I grew up!

PM'ed.

Anyone else who is interested should be able to google it. I'd rather not promote a for-profit business on MP, against rules and such.

Carter Smith · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 10

Go for it! I recently learned about an organization called Sender House, based in NC. They helped create one of the best (small) gyms I've ever been to, Center 45 in Boone, NC. http://www.senderhouse.com

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 584
Benandstuff wrote:

I'd rather not promote a for-profit business on MP, against rules and such.

I don’t think there are any rules against it unless you are being a jerk :-)

Repeated promotional posts will get you  grief from other members, but unless REI has changed things, I’ll bet most people would be ok hearing about a new gym. 

Nathan Bird · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

I'm a little late but I'll throw in my two cents. My wife went to USC and would have loved a gym in Columbia. Yes, USC students have free access to a climbing wall on campus, but she told me that it was rather limited and new routes were set infrequently. If you were to open a gym you probably wouldn't get many casual first time climbers from USC, but any more serious climbers would probably enjoy having a more comprehensive gym in town. 

Jerry432 · · odessa texas · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 10
Nathan Hayes wrote:

I've been thinking about opening a climbing gym in my hometown of Columbia, SC as the only gym in the city closed back in 2015. I haven't heard of any plans to build a new one either. The old gym closed due to poor management it was old and outdated and needed many renovations. The original owner sold the climbing gym and the new owners weren't into climbing. After a few years of ownership they closed they original gym and opened relocated in a different area of the city without climbing walls, just as an athletic club. 

Go for it man!!  I too wish to open a gym in my hometown in Texas. we had a gym in the late 90's my buddy owned but it shut down. I wish you the best and maybe one day I have the balls to do it. 

Peter M · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 10

I'm from Sumter, about 45mins away and I know like 4-5 of my brothers friends and him go to charleston like a hour and a half plus away weekly to go to a climbing gym. And Charlestons gym is one of the worst I been too. I would go for it! There is totally a market! 

Natalie Collier · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 0
Nathan Hayes wrote:

I've been thinking about opening a climbing gym in my hometown of Columbia, SC as the only gym in the city closed back in 2015. I haven't heard of any plans to build a new one either. The old gym closed due to poor management it was old and outdated and needed many renovations. The original owner sold the climbing gym and the new owners weren't into climbing. After a few years of ownership they closed they original gym and opened relocated in a different area of the city without climbing walls, just as an athletic club. 

any word on if y'all have plans for a future gym?  i think the area supports it for sure, but be it there is a lack of any real rocks in this area, we don't have a thriving climbing community.  stronghold was good for a challenge, but the whole bad lighting vibe and the need for updates i imagine turned new people off.  it looked sketchy i'm sure for beginners.  the fact they didn't train people to belay that i ever saw (always having the staffed belayer) probably hindered creating a more indoor climbing community.  my husband and i are local climbers and would definitely get a membership.  if this is something you decide to do, depending on the approach you decide to take, we would probably volunteer some work to get it going.  we've made a small bouldering wall in our back yard, and we have maintenance experience so there's that.  and maybe reaching out into the community to local climbers could potentially offset costs.  just ideas.  i hope someone decides to do it, the area needs it haha

Ellie Wu · · Columbia, SC · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0

Hey there! I'm moving to Columbia, SC in August and am desperate to find a climbing gym in the area. From what I know, Columbia is trying to expand their growth and provide more opportunities for community connectedness. Climbing gyms create the perfect space for building a community, and I feel like a new gym would gain traction quickly, given the new trendiness of climbing and the number of outdoor lovers in Columbia. I'm sure with some marketing and emphasis on "community", people will be eager to get involved. I'll be a grad student in Columbia and would be very happy to spread the word when I get there. Please consider and keep us posted! 

Jake Pimental · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2018 · Points: 0

Im happy to help get this started in Columbia as my home town is Lexington SC. Nathan Hayes what is a good way to get in contact with you?

Amanda Moles · · Landrum, SC · Joined Sep 2018 · Points: 0

I am moving to Sumter in a couple months, and am desperate to find a climbing gym.  The only one that is available is at USC, and I was thinking about taking a class just so I would have access to the wall.  Are you still thinking about building a gym?  If so, are you looking for employees? :)

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Southern States
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