01/21: With our help, WA state climbing centers successfully lobbied to label indoor climbing as low (Covid) risk, allowing their climbing centers to reopen. Read our full statement and two WA articles: The News Tribune and The Spokesman-Review.
10/20: Successfully moved "climbing walls" out of "Family Entertainment" designation, allowing certain local jurisdictions the freedom to consider climbing centers part of the fitness guidelines and open in red tier. KTVU article: "Climbing gyms among San Francisco businesses allowed wider reopening."
- Met with California Department of Public Health to make our case
- Turning toward addressing aid packages available and their inability to meet our needs
- Our materials were used to support opening Washington State indoor climbing centers
11/06: Climbing Business Journal "How Climbing Centers are Navigating Tiered Reopening in California."
11/19: Cal Matters "Why do shopping malls remain open while indoor climbing centers have to close?"
12/2: San Luis Obispo Tribune. "SLO Fitness Centers Face a Dilemma: Defy COVID Order or go broke. Neither is okay."
2/7/2021 Climbing Business Journal "Climbing Gyms and Trends 2020."
3/1/2021 Fox40. "State Rock Climbing Centers Appeal to Reopen in Purple Tier."
I believe, from a public health and safety standpoint, that climbing centers have inherently less exposure than standard gyms, and they have well-defined protocols in place that will minimize transmission of COVID-19.
To clarify, there is no sustained heavy breathing and no physical contact in climbing centers, with the ability to maintain continual mask wearing, physical distancing, as well as frequent hand sanitization, making this a lower risk than many indoor shared spaces. I am working on the front lines in the ER and considering our use of PPE in a hospital environment, the policies and practices proposed by indoor climbing centers are adequate to ensure as high of a level of safety for members and the community as possible.
Climbing centers are spacious, and with reservation systems, they can maintain a safe number of people in the building at all times so that everyone can maintain at least 6’ of distance from other climbers. They have higher ceilings than most buildings which minimizes concentration of aerosols and climbing centers have efficient air handling systems to remove and exhaust air at much higher rates than most indoor venues.
The risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through surface contamination on climbing holds can also be kept very low by using hand sanitizer before and after each climb, and climbing centers now provide many big dispensers of hand sanitizer throughout the building to make this easy; the use of chalk (and especially liquid chalk with >70% alcohol) reduces this risk further.
A well-run climbing gym is a relatively safe environment, and the health benefits of exercise play a key role in maintaining good physical and mental health that we all need to get through this pandemic.
While we fully support the purpose of the current county-by-county restrictions, we now know enough to move indoor climbing into less restrictive bounds. Based on our discussions with local public health officials, we believe that we can operate safely under pre-closure COVID guidelines, whether we are purple or not.
People use our spaces as individuals, or in family groups, and they stay with them. The guidance of 6 feet or greater was already in effect prior to the pandemic - that space allows climbers and their partners to not be hindered by others. Our members who have locations in other states have had ZERO cases of COVID19 transmission in the centers. W
We cannot operate outside. Our businesses are literally built around tall, engineered, indoor climbing structures made of steel, wood, and concrete that range from 15 to 60 feet high that cannot be moved.
We are heavily involved in community empowerment and support - our industry supports community based organizations broadly from charity birthday parties to mentorship nonprofits like Big Brothers Big Sisters to working with people on the spectrum or those who come from underserved communities. We continue to provide tangible services to these organizations that are also under threat of permanently going under and are losing their funding streams. It costs us nothing to keep these charitable operations going as long as we are allowed to operate.
Indoor climbing centers are slowly dying and will not rebound quickly: open locations around the country are reporting revenues of only 40% what they were at closure. Almost all of us did not pay for our climbing centers with cash; we financed the hundreds of thousands--and in some cases, millions--of dollars. The hundreds of tons of wood and steel and plastic are bespoke to their locations and cannot easily find another home, particularly if there is a huge cloud of uncertainty over our ability to operate. This financing means we continue to pay huge debt service whether we operate or not.
We are specifically requesting to be able to open at 25% capacity immediately.