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U.K. Climbing Gyms Seek Government Support During Pandemic

Indoor climbing facilities around the world are hoping to survive the lockdowns of 2020/21

Photo by: The Foundry in the U.K.

Many climbing gyms around the world are coping with capacity restrictions due to covid. In the U.K., leaders from the indoor climbing industry are part of a group that will present evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to request financial support to help safeguard the future of the sector.

Climbing gyms in Alberta and Ontario have been closed for over a month. Most of Canada’s other climbing gyms have reduced capacities, but are at least allowed to open. Alberta’s gym may be allowed to reopen during the second half of January, but Ontario’s gyms might be closed for a few more months depending on the pandemic.

Richard Emerson of theAssociation of British Climbing Walls will represent the indoor climbing industry. The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has reported: “Without additional short term support, it is likely that many previously successful businesses could close and it is possible that many valuable facilities will be lost. Indoor walls form a keystone of our grassroots sport, and contain much more than the climbing surfaces within. They are focal points for local climbing communities, provide a gateway into the sport for many, and are places where the friendships and bonds that are made result in a lifetime of climbing activity. It is therefore essential for our sport that climbing walls are able to survive these economically difficult times, and as such the BMC wholeheartedly supports the work by the sector to safeguard these facilities.”

Paul Davies, BMC CEO, has said: “As has been the case across the whole indoor sport and leisure sector, climbing walls have been hit hard by the need to close in response to the pandemic. With many walls now being pushed closer than ever to financial breaking point, it is our hope that the government will be able to extend additional support to help secure the future of the indoor climbing industry. Places for people to exercise and train will be more important than ever when the pandemic starts to ease, and we must make sure that indoor walls are there for people to return to. Assistance now, through things such as extending business rate holidays and matching the reduction in VAT extended to the hospitality sector, will greatly improve the ability of the sector to survive and be in a position to provide these facilities for when they are most needed.”

In November, we interviewed Matthew Languay, a climbing gym owner in Toronto about opening a second location. He told us, “There are massive financial stresses and issues and it gets very scary a lot of the time, but the light at the ends of the tunnel is really positive. For myself, personally, I am looking forward to climbing more. For the first time I can rock climb in months. During the shutdown, I got to climb more than I have in a long time. Falling back in love with it has been really nice.” Read the story here.

Author Noah Walker concluded: “So how can we help? Well, no matter which facility you attend, many could very much use the assistance of your continued membership. For many, this cost is simply too high in a time where more people are out of work than ever, but if you have the means, your support means the world to these small businesses.”

And last June, we spoke to Andrew Coffeey, owner of The Hive in B.C. after the first lockdown. He told us: “You can take reasonable measures to ensure that people are not bringing the virus to your gym. It does take a lot of prep work. You have got to be sure that you have done everything in advance. Community health has got to be top priority. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If our community isn’t healthy, there is nothing that can save us. Community health has to come first.” Read the story here.



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Lead photo: The Foundry in the U.K.