Fairbanks Rock Club Climbs their way to the top


[ Article was originally posted on www.sba.gov ]

By U.S. Small Business Administration

Alaska District Office Ascension Rock Club Eamon Stack, owner Fairbanks, Alaska 2 ft 5 pt employees SBDC assisitance 2014-2015 When Ascension Rock Club hit the scene in Fairbanks a few years ago, it opened up the community to a brand new form of indoor exercise and socializing. By establishing the first rock climbing gym in Fairbanks, Eamon and Audrey Stack knew they were bringing a long anticipated need to their adventurous demographic and couldn’t wait to open their doors. Ascension is a bouldering-only gym, meaning all the walls are 14 feet or shorter, intended to be climbed without the use of a rope. ”Focusing on bouldering made it easier to find real estate and will make it simpler for new climbers,” Eamon said. “Anybody can come in. We’ll rent you shoes and we’ll show you what you need to know to climb,” he said. “Climbing is puzzle solving. You come in and you work on something that interests you. It’s as hard as you want it to be.” The 7,500-square-foot gym has walls built to hold more than 16,000 T-nuts, the hardware that secures climbing holds to the wall. The walls accommodate approximately 40 climbers at a time and nearly 100 climbing routes. Eamon and Audrey both grew up in Fairbanks and have been climbing since 2007, when they got into the sport in Flagstaff, Arizona, while Audrey was attending college at Northern Arizona University. The sport has taken them to outdoor climbing spots such as Arizona’s Kelly Canyon and to indoor gyms in Anchorage, Wasilla, Colorado and Washington — where they’ve made a point of meeting the owners and asking a lot of questions. Eamon had been thinking about building a climbing gym in his hometown since 2011. A huge challenge for any rock climbing gym is the large startup cost associated with the venture. Eamon began working with Russ Talvi, Fairbanks Director for the Alaska Small Business Development Center as he worked through the financial projections, approached funders and even created a crowdfunding campaign.

In just a few short months, Ascension Rock Club had the funding needed to open their doors and a full roster of local investors. “Russ Talvi and the Alaska SBDC were instrumental in preparing us for the risks and challenges of starting a new business. They were most helpful in the area of budgeting, helping us minimize startup costs and plan for a successful startup period,” said Eamon. Their business model depends on getting more Fairbanksans interested in the sport. The Golden Heart City already has some indoor climbing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ student recreation center. By Eamon Stack’s estimate, Fairbanks has approximately 400 people who would describe themselves as rock climbers. But Ascension’s main target audience is people who don’t climb yet. There are 40,000 borough residents between the age of 10 and 50.

It’s a huge potential market of people who could be interested in an indoor exercise program, especially during the winter, Stack said. The gym has a kids room with easier climbing routes and will offer climbing camps and exercise programs to attract those users. Expanding to roped climbing may be in the future, but for now, they’re keeping it simple. In just two years they have created five part-time jobs, two full-time jobs for the Stacks and have over 200 club memberships. Ascension Rock Club is proud to be the first dedicated indoor climbing facility in Fairbanks offering the experience to climbers of all ages and skill levels.

They offer year-round recreational opportunities for all ages including a party room for birthday events, educational camps for kids and lessons and competitions for older age groups. For more information about the Alaska SBDC network, visit www.aksbdc.org or www.sba.gov/local-assistance for a full list of SBA resource partners.

For more information about Ascension Rock Club, visit www.ascensionrockclub.com.

SOURCE: https://www.sba.gov/blog/fairbanks-rock-club-climbs-their-way-top

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