Campus rec centers worldwide can attest to the benefits that come with hosting a climbing wall. However, the most significant value comes from a climbing wall with auto belays. Auto belays replace a top-rope set up and automatically take up slack as a climber ascends the climbing wall, then safely returns the climber to the ground using a brake. With the drastic increase of interest and attention of sport climbing (especially after it’s addition to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games), a climbing wall with auto belays proves to be a wise investment for any campus rec center.
The growing popularity of climbing boomed over the past three years, as indoor climbing facilities saw their memberships increase by about 20 percent annually. Climbing was once considered a niche sport and is now what people call a “worldwide sensation.” So how important is it for a campus rec center to have a climbing wall? Remarkably, especially after examining its growth rate over the years.
By the Numbers
In Outdoor Foundation’s 2014 report, the number of climbers involved in the sport indoors and outdoors was five million (and growing).
The highest-ranking group out of these five million were college-age climbers.
From 2012-2017, the IBISWorld estimates that the indoor climbing wall industry’s average annual growth was 3.9 percent in the USA. The indoor climbing wall industry’s growth beat the fitness clubs, health and gym industry’s growth by over 39 percent. The commercial climbing industry’s peak of popularity came in 2016 thru 2018 as the sector grew at a rate of 6.9 percent in 2016, then 10 percent in 2017, and increasing to 11.8 percent in 2018.
Campus rec centers that can offer amenities like a climbing wall with auto belays have an advantage in recruiting and keeping students. The number of climbing gyms in the United States expanded by 5.21 percent in 2019, which increases competition for campus rec centers participation. Students with the option to climb and increase their skill level at their campus rec center will more likely choose convenience and lower prices over a specific commercial climbing facility. If the numbers don’t speak for themselves, consider climbing’s popularity an essential factor for student engagement as the sport planned to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020.
Olympic Impact on Climbing Popularity
Viewers observed climbers during the 2020 Olympics through three disciplines: speed, bouldering and lead climbing. During the speed climbing competition, two climbers race against each other along a route up a 15-meter wall. Bouldering will require climbers to ascend a 4.5-meter wall on several fixed routes. And finally, climbers will partake in lead and climb as high as possible on a wall over 15 meters under the pressure of a timer. All climbers will compete in all three disciplines as each discipline contributes to the athletes’ final rankings.
When it comes to attracting more students to a campus rec center, colleges and universities should be more invested in what students want. More and more students choose climbing for their sport and exercise of choice, allowing both campus rec centers and students to benefit and grow from a climbing wall with auto belays.