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Climb Base5 owner Daniel Poggi on what it takes to run a climbing gym and why sport climbing is gaining in popularity

As a longstanding member of the Vancouver climbing community, Dan has and still continues to give back to the community. With Climb Base5, the largest rock climbing gym in Metro Vancouver, he’s not only created an athletic facility that provides exceptional customer service, but a place that is about fitness and fun as it is about community and culture. Here’s how he got into the business and why he thinks sport climbing is gaining in popularity.

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On owning and operating an indoor climbing gym…

I was introduced to climbing through a high school friend. Climbing became an instant obsession. All of my time was devoted to developing myself both mentally and physically. When I opened my first gym in 2002, I was able to attribute climbing to pretty much everything I had. It consisted of my livelihood, my wife and first child, and my association with an awesome community whom I regarded as my group of close friends. It was the start of my vision of giving back to the community that had provided so much for me.

Operating a climbing gym is surprisingly labor intensive. There are many moving parts, and the organization required to make it work seamlessly requires great staff and leadership. Our focus is to develop and support our community, and our operations reflect that – a mix of trained belayers, dedicated and friendly desk staff, coaches, route-setters, safety and operations technicians, and administrative and business-oriented managers. We have a strong focus on integrating new climbers and helping them to become self-sufficient and develop their own experiences, and our programming reflects that goal. We continuously tweak our operations and programming to meet the needs of our always-evolving community, which consists of beginners and elite athletes in all age ranges. It’s a complex balance to meet the needs of all our community.

My advice if anyone wants to add a climbing wall to their business? Start by assessing why you want to provide climbing for your members and ask yourself whether your target market connects with climbing and its core values.

On why sport climbing has become so popular recently…

Indoor climbing was traditionally created for training in the off-season. Climbers could maintain a sport-specific fitness program when the rock was wet or frozen without having to travel to warmer destinations for extended periods of time. While climbing still has an element of danger associated with it, climbing gyms provide the experience in a controlled environment for the mainstream to enjoy. With increasingly interest in the sport, the current community is also very diverse and has varying objectives and goals. There is a growing group of climbers that do not have aspirations to climb or boulder outdoors. This group has limited time due to family/work obligations that don’t facilitate climbing outdoors. With this, the gym also provides a great social and athletic experience and can be a full-service facility to meet their specific needs which the outdoors cannot provide.

On the benefits of having a community…

With climbing being introduced in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the level of competition will continue to improve. As a result, there are and will be many strong competitors, and often the difference between winning and losing is having the support of your team. Teamwork has been the difference for both our adult performance team and junior level competitors, who have taken podiums in every category at nationals this year. Our head coach Andrew Wilson and assistant coach and physiotherapist Len Chong have also developed a cohesive and supportive environment for our athletes, particularly the Open Performance Team, to develop themselves physically and mentally.

This is an edited version of the full interview by Accurofit