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Gym's - does size matter?
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dr.ed


Jul 9, 2010, 7:12 PM
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Gym's - does size matter?
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doing a little analysis on the viability of rock climbing gym's resulted in this chart:



which I would interpret as indicating that rock gyms below about 7,000 sq ft (as stated by the gym) have a 25% closure rate over the last 10 years whereas gyms above 11,000 sq ft are all still open.

I gathered this data by looking at the "Rock Gyms" section of Climbing magazine, using the ad's statements of size in the issues from about 2007 to 1999 (one a year, equally spaced). From that list I went online to see if the gym was open or closed... in some cases that couldn't be determined (I didn't use these indeterminate cases, but in retrospect if a gym doesn't have a web site it probably isn't open for business).

Of the small gyms still open, they are either a part of some larger facility or in areas not served by other gyms (usually smaller population centers).

The question to the rockclimbing.com community is:

What is it about the size of the rock gym that affects your decision to climb there?


(This post was edited by dr.ed on Jul 9, 2010, 7:13 PM)


jh_angel


Jul 9, 2010, 7:49 PM
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Re: [dr.ed] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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The routes. More specifically, bigger gyms have more routes, more variety to the holds, and usually a better setting staff (although I've seen an exception or two to this last part).


ax


Jul 10, 2010, 7:41 AM
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Re: [dr.ed] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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Maybe you should ask the same question to non-climbers / birthday party organizers Wink

Also ask summer camp kids' parents, boy scout leaders, etc.

I have a sneaky suspicion that gym business longevity has more to do with their money than that of most regular climbers. ...


djlachelt


Jul 10, 2010, 8:04 AM
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Re: [jh_angel] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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Assuming the population in the area can sustain a large gym, then all of the benefits of scale make the larger gym more attractive. Higher revenue makes all of these things possible:
* more routes to choose from at your climbing grade
* larger variety of holds
* more new routes each week
* larger setting staff... so more variety of climbing styles
* more programming (classes, comps, special events)
* more attention to amenities and keeping the place looking nice
* more people to meet

Obviously, someone could have a large gym and still make bad decisions that lead to the gym being crummy, but it's not likely. If the management had the money to invest in a large gym then they generally didn't get to that position by being a poor business person. So they tend to have a well run gym, at least one that is profitable... and thus, stays in business.

On the other hand however, if you (the customer) are a very good climber wanting a specific environment to train in, you may want something different than what the large gym offers. Even a large gym will likely have to choose some area of focus which means less focus on some other area. Eg. it may be more focused on parties, or be so busy that you don't get a personal/community feeling that you can find at a smaller gym.


matterunomama


Jul 10, 2010, 5:06 PM
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Re: [dr.ed] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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In winter, climbing for two hours 3x week=> same routes at a smaller gym. So I don't think its the size alone, but the size RELATIVE to other local gyms.

The bar has been raised everywhere-unless a small place has great setters that change the routes often, its going to suffer by comparison to a larger gym where you have more to explore, and setting will be a greater percentage expense for the smaller gym.

There is also the human/community element. A community is said to be no more than 150 people (the "Dunbar Number"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number) That number corresponds to a gym around 15000 sq ft with about 600 active climbers coming 2x/wk.

So thats the new standard, in my opinion. Smaller can work only if there is nothing else around. Any larger, and you don;t see the same 50-75 people all the time (platoon size?), and feel part of the gym's family, and don/t get the same feeling of belonging.


lancebrock


Jul 11, 2010, 4:27 AM
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Re: [matterunomama] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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this is one of the best threads i have seen in a while. i guess it is only a matter of time before it gets pulled down like the other threads.

first a little background...i have owned two gyms. the first one we bought was 6500 sf and was about 10 years old when we bought it. we kept it a couple years. we still own a newer one that is 12000 sf and now 7 years old.

i would say it has less to do with the size but more to do with the age. i think you could probably change the metric along the bottom from sf to age and it would be a similar graph. in other words, the older gyms are closing and the newer ones aren't. the smaller ones just happen to be the older ones. the newer generation of gyms (the last 5-10 years with a health/fitness component) tend to be bigger. these days, i think it would not be a good decision to build a small gym with no health/fitness component.

i like the research, regardless!


lancebrock


Jul 11, 2010, 4:40 AM
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Re: [djlachelt] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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djlachelt wrote:
Higher revenue makes all of these things possible:
* more routes to choose from at your climbing grade
* larger variety of holds
* more new routes each week
* larger setting staff... so more variety of climbing styles
* more programming (classes, comps, special events)
* more attention to amenities and keeping the place looking nice
* more people to meet

i like your statement but i would actually reverse that statement and say all these things (all good points that some gyms miss) make a higher revenue possible by building a climbing community. 2 things i would add to your list are friendly staff (drop the attitude) and a bright, clean facility. i guess it is the old "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

it takes time to build but i get tired of hearing people say b-day parties are where the money is. that is not true for everyone and doesn't have to be true. i know of a gym that doesn't even have a party option. we do plenty of parties but it is a small percentage of our income. instead, we chose to focus on building a health conscious community of people who frequent our gym that is our bread and butter.


LargeUnit


Jul 11, 2010, 8:56 AM
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Re: [dr.ed] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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If there are 22 gyms at 8 square feet and 7 at 14 square feet which group do you think would have a higher number of closures. I think there are far too many factors to determine too much from that chart.


bill413


Jul 11, 2010, 2:24 PM
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Re: [LargeUnit] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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One hypothesis among many: the larger the gym, the more money required to start it. So, perhaps a better business plan to convince the financial backers. And if the business plan (and customer base analysis) was realistic, then a better chance for success.


rschap


Jul 12, 2010, 5:05 PM
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Re: [LargeUnit] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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LargeUnit wrote:
If there are 22 gyms at 8 square feet and 7 at 14 square feet which group do you think would have a higher number of closures. I think there are far too many factors to determine too much from that chart.


I'm thinking that's it.

My gym is 5,600sq feet and and is not listed in any climbing magazine, if you went to look up the website off of the name that was listed the last time this gym was you wouldn't come up with one because the name has changed. Makes me wonder how much that has happened.


keinangst


Aug 9, 2010, 7:56 AM
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Re: [rschap] Gym's - does size matter? [In reply to]
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Also, there's a little bit of circular logic at work here (bias).

People who open larger gyms typically:
1. Have much more skin in the game (more invested, more to lose)
2. Live in a place that can support the gym's size
3. Can repurpose square footage according to changing demand (bouldering, ropes, weights, yoga)
4. etc

Smaller gyms could easily include endeavors that are just one step above a co-op...and they don't benefit from economies of scale (amortization of overhead) the way a larger gym can, so the operating leverage is more likely to be higher.

In other words, you can't really compare your corner hardware store with Lowe's just because their products are similar. Similarly, don't assume that all small gyms are doomed, while all large gyms are blessed.

/devil's advocate


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