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The Climbing Wall Association's blog is a place for indoor climbing professionals to find useful and relevant information from industry and business experts. Stay on top of best practices, thought leadership, and trends by subscribing to Thrive - A Climbing Business Blog! www.climbingwallindustry.org/lines

 

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Is More Stimulus Coming?

Posted By Garnet Moore, Tuesday, September 15, 2020
small business stimulus

The timeline for more federal coronavirus stimulus in the US has been delayed for at least a month, but there is still some chance that we will see legislation passed before November 3. A lot of the public discussion around stimulus pertains to unemployment benefits and Economic Impact Payments, and while those seem less likely to be included in any upcoming stimulus, there are several likely provisions that will help small businesses.

 

But first, here’s where we’re at in the negotiations. Additional stimulus has been actively discussed since the CARES act first passed on March 27. Very quickly, the House introduced the HEROES act which did not gain traction in the Senate. The Senate responded on July 27 by introducing the HEALS act, which pared the cost of the relief package and focused heavily on business needs.

 

The price tag on this bill was still in dispute and Senate Republicans crafted a new smaller proposal titled Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act. This proposal seems to indicate the direction that future relief packages may take focusing narrowly on certain sectors or interests rather than attempting to cover the needs of the entire country. This bill has not been successful yet and alternate packages are being discussed.

 

While a final bill may or may not incorporate some relief for climbing gym workers who are still experiencing unemployment, the possible areas of support for small business seem to be less contentious and there are several potential provisions that gym owners should be tracking:

  1. You may gain some extra protection from the liability of coronavirus related lawsuits. Excluding gross negligence, employers are likely to be shielded from many lawsuits. Potential complaints would have to demonstrate that any damages they incurred were due to exposure to coronavirus and that the business did not make reasonable efforts to comply with government standards or guidance.
  2. For small businesses with at least a 50% reduction in gross revenues there may be an option to secure another loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. Similar to the first instance of the PPP, these loans may be forgivable if significant portions are used for payroll costs.

    The exact rules are likely to continue to be discussed, but as of now, it is possible that these loans could equal 2.5 times your total monthly payroll cost for a defined period maxing out at $2 million.
  3. There may be an expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit to cover more workers, larger businesses, and lower the reduction in revenue needed to qualify. There is also the possibility that businesses could now make use of both this credit and the PPP, although not for the same payroll costs.
  4. This most recent bill did not include the possibility of automatic loan forgiveness for PPP loans less than $150,000 but this idea has broad support and may come back in future proposals.
  5. On a fun note, the HEALS act allowed for a 100% deduction of business meals through the end of 2020. This was missing in the latest proposal, however if it does return in future legislation make sure to cater a nice meal for your staff and support a local restaurant.

We will continue to monitor the status of stimulus for small businesses and advocate on behalf of the indoor climbing industry. There is still some chance that further aid will be available in the coming months, and as soon as more details are available, we will report on the key provisions that affect our industry.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Interim Executive Director at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, serving gyms, manufacturers, and many climbing friends and partners.

 

Tags:  advocacy  coronavirus  COVID-19  finances  public policy  stimulus 

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Fostering Connection and Inspiration at the Survive & Thrive Workshop

Posted By Laura Allured, Monday, September 14, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Kristin Horowitz Marc Gutman Laura Allured

On September 2 and 3, 2020 the CWA hosted the Survive & Thrive Workshop, its first-ever all virtual workshop. The event was built to give gym owners and senior leadership a framework for success during COVID. 150 people from over 25 states and 3 countries, including more than 40 different gyms and 20 sponsors, joined online for two days jam-packed with learning and activities.

 

The “venue” in this case was a virtual event platform called Whova, a hub site where attendees could navigate to different sessions and also message other attendees, join virtual meetups, visit interactive sponsor pages, and contribute toward discussions on the lively Community Board. Community Board topics include, “Work from home parents,” “Diversifying climbing communities,” “gyms still closed,” “new pricing structures,” and “competition ideas.”

 

 

Day 1 kicked off with a keynote address by Sam Thiara, an expert business coach who emphasized the importance of CARE: Collaboration, Adaptability, Resilience, and Empathy. Attendees then had the option of joining Track 1 or Track 2, 90-minute deep dives into two areas: Adaptable Business Models and Leading Through Coronavirus. The track sessions were a mixed format of presentations, panels, and Q&A, with a robust virtual chat and question threads happening during presentations.

 

Day 2’s tracks focused on Financial Positioning & Self-Advocacy, with panelists from a variety of gym sizes, locations, and years in operation, and Marketing & Community Engagement. Each day also included breakout sessions into pre-assigned “pods” with names such as “Pod Belay!” “Pod Save the Queen,” and “Orange is the New Pod.” These fun pods provided a more intimate, confidential space for groups of 10-15 to open up and share challenges with one another. Problem Solving sessions also allowed pods to tackle a problem together using the interactive brainstorming tool, Miro, then a delegate from each pod presented their takeaways.

 

Financial Survival and Advocacy

 

The two days of live programming wrapped up with a closing keynote with business coach, Marc Koehler presenting on how to build a strong team culture, and a special guest speaker, Tommy Caldwell, speaking on overcoming adversity. Attendees walked away with more confidence, more connections, and new skills to tackle very immediate issues facing their gyms. One attendee wrote, “Magical occasion to connect and exchange with other people from the industry in #2020craziness. 14/10 would recommend!”

 

Additional activities include a photo contest, leaderboard to show those who were most engaged, a sponsor passport contest, sponsor and raffle and giveaways, running through the end of the month! Raffle prizes include holds, volumes, massage chairs, climbing gear, and more.

 

Purchase an On-Demand Ticket to watch this valuable content and gain access to the interactive ecosystem. Once on the platform, you’ll have access to the content and networking tools for the next 6 months! Ticket sales end September 30.

 

LEARN MORE

 

Tags:  advocacy  business development  community development  company culture  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer experience  diversity  employee engagement  financing  human resources  JEDI  marketing  member acquisition  member communications  member retention  programming  public policy  regulations  risk management  staff retention  staff training  virtual events 

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Communication Strategies for Mask Requirements

Posted By Holly Chen, Friday, September 11, 2020
Communicating Mask Requirements

It is quite common for the customer service team of a climbing gym to wear multiple hats; performing the roles of front desk staff, retail, communications, floor patrol, and now—public health and safety officers.

 

As climbing gyms and fitness facilities have rolled out reopening plans, certain protocols have become major sources of conflict between businesses and their customers. Despite diminishing levels of panic and fear, the risk of spreading COVID-19 is still present, and business owners must be intentional about communicating and enforcing their policies.

 

A common point of tension is the question of masks. Business owners have a right to require masks and to refuse entry or service to an individual not wearing one as long as there is no discrimination involved. The logic is comparable to the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policies we see regularly.

 

The decision to have staff, members, and guests wear a mask or not often depends on local, state, or federal requirements. If those requirements are absent, it is ultimately up to the gym owners to decide.

 

Whatever the decision is, it is important to have a communications plan in place to proactively address any new public health protocols for your facility. Here are some strategies and insights to guide your planning process around communicating mask requirements:

 

ESTABLISH CLEAR GUIDELINES ON PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

  • To avoid contradictions and confusion, the language of new policies should be accurate and consistent across all platforms, including digital, physical, and verbal. Share the policies on websites, in newsletters, on social media platforms, and post signage around the gym as a reminder.
  • Many gyms are choosing to host new orientations, even for returning members. Consider including new policies in your orientations.
  • Meet with the staff and ensure everyone is on the same page. Are masks required? If yes, are there exceptions? Can you pull it off when you are climbing? If the facility has an outdoor area, are guests allowed to go mask-less outside? Your customer service team will appear unreliable if a member is told they can pull down their mask while climbing by one staff member only to be told otherwise by another an hour later. Help your team by making sure procedures are clear.
  • More of these tips can be found in our series on communicating with customers about the new realities of running a gym in the age of coronavirus.

It’s important to note that you could do all of this and more, but still encounter customers who disagree with you. While many have adapted quickly to new policies such as reservation systems, liquid chalk, and zoning of gyms, the question of masks is slightly more complicated.

 

The unfortunate reality is that, for some, the act of masking up has been twisted from a helpful public safety measure to a personal political statement. Given the circumstances, approach these conversations delicately and with care.

 

POSITIVE ATTITUDE, HELPFULNESS, AND FRIENDLINESS

  • When interacting with a member or guest, address the customer by name, if possible. In many close-knit climbing gym communities with loyal regulars, this is possible more often than not!
  • Remember to express your delight that they have returned to the climbing gym.
  • Take note if they need any assistance adjusting to the new policies and offer a friendly reminder or suggestion if needed. For example, maybe their mask is not fit for exercise? Many masks are double-layered, have insecure attachments, or are improperly fitted. A helpful suggestion could be to provide them with a disposable mask. If your gym does not provide or sell facial coverings, consider stocking them!

EMPATHY AND ACTIVE LISTENING

  • If the customer expresses their disagreement, listen, even if you disagree. People are more likely to have a positive reaction to policy enforcement if it begins as a conversation rather than a confrontation. Keep in mind that people have been starved of community interaction and person-to-person connections, so most are more than happy to engage in a conversation.
  • Avoid interrupting to make a point. Hold space for them to vent their concerns.
  • Use language such as, “I/we understand,” when they express frustration or anger.
  • Find common ground with them, the easiest one being: “Climbing/working out in a mask isn’t ideal. We know, and we miss the old days too.”
  • Make the point that without these policies in place, you may not be able to operate at all: “We all want gyms and businesses to stay open, and in order to accomplish that we must work together to combat the spread of COVID-19. We really appreciate the cooperation of our members to help keep the climbing community safe and the gym open.”
  • For additional tips, read our article on avoiding and de-escalating customer conflicts.

PREPARE FOR COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

  • Misinformation leading to misconception is rampant in the age of rapid content delivery. Prepare answers for common misconceptions such as:
    • Masks cause hypoxia
    • The 6ft social distancing guideline makes you unsusceptible to COVID-19
  • Cite and refer to reliable resources such as the CDC for misconceptions on facial coverings and COVID-19 transmission.
  • Cite and refer to local, state, or federal requirements on public health and safety requirements if needed.

FIRM ENFORCEMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

  • Returning to the information accuracy section above, meet with the staff and ensure everyone is on the same page on policy enforcement. Your customer service team will appear inconsistent if some staff are strictly enforcing mask policies while others are letting it slide.
  • If the conversation with a customer escalates and all forms of de-escalation strategies fail, be firm on the policies. Treat your gym’s public health and safety policies as you would climbing safety policies.
  • If serious verbal altercations occur, note it down for future reference and for the training of other employees who were not on shift to witness the disagreement. This is also a way to track those who are multiple offenders of disregarding safety protocols.
  • Dealing with hostile language and disgruntled members, while disheartening, is an unfortunate part of the customer service job description. Stand your ground and stick to your values.
  • If the customer refuses to comply, politely ask them to leave the facility. If they do not, contact local law enforcement.
  • There have been several cases of physical violence towards customer service employees who ask customers to wear a mask. While there have been no cases of physical violence in the climbing gym industry so far, it would be smart to remain vigilant.

Keep in mind that these guidelines are not rules. There is no singular way to approach the communication of a sensitive topic in such an unprecedented time. The ability to gauge a customer and adapt on the fly is the hallmark of a good customer service team member.

 

For those who are customer service veterans, keep an eye out for your teammates who don’t have as much experience and lend support when needed. We all want to continue climbing, and for that to be possible we must not grow complacent to the threat of COVID-19.

 

Holly Chen Head ShotAbout the Author

Holly grew up in Taiwan, a tropical island smaller than the state of Colorado where she often dreamed of living somewhere colder. She began working in publishing at a young age, authoring a National Best Seller in her home island at the age of 17 before moving across the Pacific to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her professional interests lie in communications, brand strategy, and using written and visual storytelling to inspire creation and recreation.

 

Tags:  company culture  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer service  leadership  management  member communications  operations  risk management  staff training 

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How to Plan Activities for Groups and Teams During COVID

Posted By Headwall Group, Monday, August 17, 2020
COVID-19 Activities

As COVID-19 threatens the health of our global community, climbing gyms across the world are facing challenges unlike any we’ve seen before. As climbing gyms begin to reopen, operations cannot be business as usual.

 

In this time of uncertainty and change, the indoor climbing industry has been implementing creative and innovative new approaches in order to meet the challenges it’s facing and get its community climbing safely again. Aspiring young climbers are a huge part of that community, and they are as eager as anyone to start climbing with their friends again.

 

As gyms begin considering the possibility of reopening their youth programs, they are realizing the overwhelming logistics involved. In our previous post we discussed some general considerations gyms must consider when mapping out the reopening of their youth programs. Now, we want to discuss how to approach the planning and implementation of activities and share an example of an activity that highlights this approach.

 

PLANNING

At Headwall Group we like to stress the importance of program planning. When considering running a youth program in the time of COVID-19, planning is even more important.

 

Each practice should have a detailed program plan that includes health and safety considerations for all activities coaches will facilitate during a practice. Program Directors should make it very clear who is responsible for creating these plans and continually audit program plans to make sure that all health and safety considerations are addressed in the plan. This should continue as long as any health risks exist in order to avoid complacency.

 

The plan should answer three questions for each activity:

  1. What will be done to mitigate the environmental risk? e.g. how does the setting contribute to an increased risk of exposure to COVID, how can this be mitigated (not eliminated)?
  2. What will be done to mitigate the equipment risk? e.g. how does the use of equipment contribute to an increased risk of exposure to COVID, how can this be mitigated (not eliminated)?
  3. What will be done to mitigate the social risk? e.g. how does the manner in which your group is expected to interact contribute to an increased risk of exposure to COVID, how can this be mitigated (not eliminated)?

Creating quality and consistent program plans acts as a roadmap to program goals and helps with efficiency and group management. In these times, a program plan will also allow a coach to think through and plan for any health risks.

 

COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS

When facilitating activities that require a group to behave in a certain way in order to mitigate health risks it is important that the coach presents these expectations clearly. For example, if your program is requiring social distancing, the coach should explicitly state where participants should be during an activity.

 

Try to find creative ways to build these expectations into the rules of the activity so that the participants feel engaged in the process and as a coach, it is easier to encourage appropriate behavior. For example, if you are transitioning the group from one area of the gym to another, rather than just telling participants to stay six feet away from each other as they walk, give them a task that requires it, such as tying a knot every six feet along a climbing rope that each participant can hold as the group transitions together. For younger groups, a story can be added to make it more engaging.

 

The reality is, no matter how well the coach has planned and no matter how clearly expectations have been stated it is impossible to guarantee all participants will follow all the expectations all of the time. If reopening your program depends on 100% compliance with social distancing and hygiene expectations, your program should not reopen as that is an impossible goal.

 

However, planning and clear communication of expectations can help establish new norms that programs can practice and adapt to. Below is an example of an activity that addresses the three risk categories that we have identified as of the largest concern: Environment (space) risk, equipment risk and social risk.

 

ACTIVITY NAME: Beta Map

Category: Skill Building
Objective: Climbers will work together to find the secret sequence from a Start Hold to a Finish Hold.
Equipment Needed: Spray Wall or Traverse Wall

 

Rules:

  1. The only person that knows the secret sequence is the Coach.
  2. Climbers take turns climbing and always start on the start hold.
  3. From the start hold, the first climber chooses any other hold that is within reach and grabs it.
  4. The coach who is holding the map, tells the climber if that is the correct hold or if it is an incorrect hold.
  5. If it is a correct hold, the climber is allowed to advance and try another hold, if it is not, that climber’s turn is over.
  6. The next climber then begins at the start hold, completes any of the moves that have already been discovered and then gets to try another move.
  7. If a climber fails to climb the correct sequence (even if it is a part of the sequence that has already been discovered), their turn is over.
  8. Once the Finish Hold has been gained, climbers take turns climbing the entire sequence.
  9. The team is successful when each climber has climbed the entire sequence.

How To Instruct: For younger climbers it can help to apply a storyline to the game (navigating their way through a swamp or up a mountain but there are pitfalls along the way). Emphasize the importance of paying attention to sequencing in climbing, that if you get pulled into the wrong sequence on a boulder problem or route, you will have to downclimb, wasting energy, or you might even fall. This game can highlight how difficult it can be to figure out the “beta” or right way to do a route or boulder problem, and that when you have “unlocked” the beta, it is important to remember it for future attempts.

 

Considerations:

  1. Make sure to pre-map the sequence before teaching the game and write it down on a piece of paper so it is easy to identify as climbers are climbing.
  2. It can help to play this game on the ground first to help climbers understand the concept. This can be done by laying out a grid of spot marks (4x4 or 5x5 works well) and playing by the same rules.
  3. Make sure the sequence is equitable across all climbers in the group; sequence should be challenging but attainable for all climbers.

Health Considerations:

  1. Environmental Risk: Small space, space shared with members
    • Mark spots on the ground where participants will wait their turn (6ft apart)
    • Section off area during the activity for team use only. Create a physical barrier with a sign.
  2. Equipment Risk: Climbing holds are frequently touched many times by all participants throughout the game.
    • Coach provides hand sanitizer before and after each turn for each participant.
    • 20 second handwashing following the activity.
    • Encourage participants not to touch their face during activity.
  3. Social Risk: This is a group activity, so it requires multiple participants.
    • Break the team up into cohorts and have cohorts take turns with the activity.
    • Masks required during the activity.
    • Team has to start over every time someone touches their face/touches or gets too close to another participant.

 

Bix Firer and Pat Brehm Head ShotAbout the Headwall Group

The Headwall Group distills the lessons learned as educators and leaders working in dynamic and high risk environments and brings them to youth-serving organizations. The Headwall group provides trainings, consultation, and curriculum development services that are rooted in our experience as outdoor experiential educators for climbing gyms, summer camps, and schools.

 

The Headwall Group was founded by Bix Firer and Pat Brehm. Bix Firer (MA, University of Chicago) is currently the Director of Outdoor Programs at College of Idaho and has worked as a wilderness educator, trainer, facilitator, and experiential educator for over a decade. Pat Brehm works as a professional organizational trainer and has spent his career as a climbing coach, facilitator, and outdoor educator.

 

Tags:  coaching  coronavirus  COVID-19  programming  risk management  staff training  youth team  youth training 

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What happens when someone at my gym tests positive?

Posted By Emma Walker, Monday, August 17, 2020
Contact Tracing

Since climbing gyms have begun reopening this summer, gym owners and managers across the country have been bracing themselves for what feels inevitable: the news that someone who’s recently climbed at their facility has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

It’s a tough situation, and unfortunately, it can happen even if your facility has followed all the applicable local regulations—including social distancing, lower capacity, asking members to mask up and make appointments to climb, and extra-stringent cleaning policies.

 

We talked to three folks who’ve experienced this situation firsthand and come out the other side. Here’s what they had to say.

 

BEFORE

Cover your bases

Liability is far from the only thing gym managers are worried about right now—but it’s not completely off the table. In addition to their social distancing and sanitizing policies, several gyms have added temperature checks and updated acknowledgement forms to their entry requirements. Nick Werner, general manager at Upper Limits Chesterfield, says this simplified the process when he found out there had been an exposure at his facility.

 

“We have this member’s signature on a waiver saying he didn’t have any symptoms,” he explains. “The CDC says the situation would have been different if he’d had obvious symptoms.”

 

Sender One facilities are using screening procedures, too, says co-founder (and CWA board member) Wes Shih. In addition to the temperature check and COVID acknowledgement, climbers answer now-common health screening questions before entering: Have you experienced symptoms? Have you had close contact with someone who’s tested positive? Have you had a positive test? So far, no one has shown up with symptoms.

 

Follow contact tracing procedures––every time

Dynoclimb owner and CEO Britt Frankel was confident in his ability to reach out to potentially exposed members because of the gym’s detailed trace information. After a member contacted Dynoclimb to say they’d tested positive, Frankel pulled a two-week trace report containing all of that individual’s check-ins and check-outs. “We were able to pinpoint any exposure potentials down to the minute,” he says.

 

Sender One and Upper Limits are both using Rock Gym Pro’s updated contact tracing feature, which has simplified the process of understanding which members have been exposed. “If you’re vigilant about [check-ins and check-outs], you can figure out who overlapped,” he says. All three of our sources indicated that it wouldn’t have been possible to notify all those who’d potentially been exposed if their gyms hadn’t been keeping careful and consistent records.

 

DURING

Get in touch with your local health department

When Werner got the call from a member who’d tested positive on a Monday night, the first thing he did was get in touch with the St. Louis County Health Department. It was after business hours, and in the absence of their guidance, he made the difficult decision to close the Chesterfield facility. (“I think this was the right call,” he says.)

 

Werner later spoke with a nurse at the CDC, who told him his facility wasn’t required to take any action. “They have a very specific definition of ‘close contact’: two or more people within six feet of each other, without masks, for longer than 15 minutes,” he explains. This situation didn’t fall into that category, according to the CDC’s investigation (which included a conversation with the person who’d tested positive). Still, Upper Limits Chesterfield remained closed for two days so Werner could notify everyone on the contact tracing report and do a deep clean of the facility.

 

One of the trickiest things about knowing when to close is that “the rules are constantly changing,” says Shih. By the time a member notified him they’d tested positive, 10 days had passed since they were last at the facility––so it didn’t make sense to close, though Sender One did notify potential exposures. “We followed all the state and federal guidelines for fitness facilities where they apply to climbing facilities,” he says.

 

Communicate proactively and frequently

Thanks to the detailed trace information these facilities had, all three were easily able to notify everyone who might have been exposed in each instance. Dynoclimb notified individuals who’d overlapped with the person who’d tested positive, as well as sending an email to its entire membership to explain that there had been a potential exposure. At Upper Limits Chesterfield, Werner called each member who’d overlapped with the COVID-positive individual (and called them back if he had to leave a voicemail). Those facilities also posted on social media, where the response was overwhelmingly appreciative and positive.

 

View this post on Instagram

DynoFam and Athletes, Late this evening, we were notified that a multi-punch pass member tested positive for COVID-19 this afternoon after showing symptoms late last night (Sunday) and being told they had come into contact with another Covid positive individual outside of Dyno. With this news, we have decided to close DynoClimb effective immediately for 48 hours to allow for a full sanitization treatment on our facility. We will be utilizing UV sterlization on all surfaces, approved anti-viral agents on all common area surfaces, alongside our 24/7 HVAC - UV ingrated systems. With the use of our protocols and tracing we are able to pinpoint exposures down to the minute and will be reaching out directly to any of those who may have been exposed within the last 2 weeks. While we believe the exposure to any Athletes has been very minimal those showing symptoms or that have incurred a possible exposure can consider getting tested and/or taking other precautions as necessary. Exposure would have been in the main climbing section on 07/05/20 after 4:15pm, 07/02/2020 after 4:30pm, 06/22/20 after 6:27pm. We appreciate everyone's understanding, patience, and communication during these times. Ultimately we have the best interests of our direct and extended community in the forefront of our actions. Please follow our social media and on our website for any updates. If you have any questions or concerns please reach out to us directly on social media or by email info@dynoclimb.com We are all in this together.

A post shared by DynoClimb 🦖 (@dynoclimb) on

 

Shih also makes the point that under no circumstances would Sender One reveal the identity of the person who tested positive. “For this to work, people have to know there won’t be any repercussions for revealing that they’ve had it,” he says. “You want community buy-in—everyone’s in this together to make sure we don’t get sick.”

 

AFTER

Reassure your guests

Members at each of these facilities appreciated being notified. In each case, the manager’s goal was to reassure members that they were taking steps to minimize exposure—as well as take care of their members.

 

At Upper Limits, for example, Werner says they’ve been very lenient about allowing people to freeze their memberships, for which he’s gotten a lot of positive feedback. Because Upper Limits has specific membership locations, they chose to allow members with Chesterfield memberships to climb at their other facilities free of charge during the time Chesterfield was closed. Werner also has an hourly cleaning schedule; employees sign off on cleanings of various equipment as they go.

 

Frankel leveraged Dynoclimb’s social media presence and email list to connect with members. “We were able to provide our community with an honest, behind-the-scenes look into what we were (and are continually) doing to create the best environment for our athletes,” he says.

 

Keep it up

“Hope is not a strategy,” Shih says. “You have to plan. And when it’s not stressful is the best time to plan.” That’s why the Sender One team has been carefully mapping out various scenarios, which Shih says has largely prevented them from having to make decisions on the fly. “There’s a chance we’ll have to close again, and it doesn’t help to just ignore that possibility,” he explains.

 

“I wish I’d been a little more prepared,” Werner says, “but I do think we handled it well.” Unfortunately, it’s tough to prepare in an ever-changing environment, but Werner—along with our other two sources—was glad to have had some systems in place before the exposure.

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer service  management  member communications  operations  risk management  staff training 

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How to Self-Advocate to Local Health Authorities

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Thursday, July 16, 2020
Local Health Departments

If you own and/or operate a climbing facility you are probably facing the question: “When will I reopen?”

 

Everyone’s circumstances are unique - some gyms have already reopened, some may have been forced to reclose, others may not have received much guidance at all. If you feel that your state or locality’s decisions are not representative of your gym’s overall preparedness or public health and safety measures, there are some steps that you can take to initiate a dialogue with those agencies to help communicate your readiness to open and your care for public health.

 

1. Find out who your local health authorities are and how best to contact them.

2. Organize your data and your thoughts

Make sure that you have your data organized and your thoughts laid out. For example, here are some talking points to consider when you are building your case on why climbing gyms should be permitted to resume operations in your area:

  • Risk management is inherently a part of climbing and a part of operating a climbing gym. Climbers trust science (it protects their lives with every ascent) and understand the importance of carefully evaluating risk and taking recommended and tested steps to mitigate it. Unlike the public, climbers and climbing gym operators are uniquely positioned to adapt to and embrace new risk management measures to keep themselves and their entire community as safe as possible.
    • You manage risk every day and instruct your visitors what risks are present and how you expect them to cooperate to mitigate these risks.
    • Your visitors regularly comply with your policies while actively assuming some of the risks associated with climbing.
  • Evidence shows that coronavirus is difficult to catch from surfaces, and primarily transfers directly from person to person. This means that in terms of contact transmission, climbing gyms pose no more of a threat than does any other activity where one opens doors, picks things up, uses equipment, etc., when hand sanitizing and social distancing measures are applied.
    • Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer for the health care website WebMD, says that the CDC's slight update brings clarity and helps to reduce fears. “Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus, and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious,” Whyte said. “I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk. It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy."
  • Highlight any measures your climbing gym is taking, such as:
    • Installing hand cleaning stations at frequent intervals
    • Making changes to your physical layout to help with distancing
    • Enforcing social distancing
    • Limiting gym capacity beyond what local laws allow
    • Requiring climbers to book time slots to control the amount of people in the gym
    • Taking temperatures prior to entry and asking health screening questions
    • Playing reminders between songs over the loudspeakers, asking climbers to please respect social distancing measures and to sanitize your hands before and after climbs
    • Requiring staff to wear masks
    • Requiring climbers to wear masks

3. CWA Roadmap to Reopening

You can use the CWA Roadmap to Reopening as a framework to record your own COVID-19 specific plan if you have not already documented your policies. Having a set of procedures, analyses, and protocols in writing will help demonstrate how seriously you take the situation and give the presiding authority a way to analyze your readiness to reopen or remain open.

 

In some areas, gyms have grouped together to present cohesive and non-contradicting plans to their governments. This may help drive your regulators to see climbing gyms as distinct from other businesses and help ease any decisions around closing and opening.

 

VIEW ROADMAP

 

4. CWA Reopening Position Paper

We have published an official position paper, which can be used as part of a packet of information you provide to your health authorities. The paper presents the CWA’s views on reopening climbing gyms. It includes information to help public health officials understand the nature of the activities in a climbing gym, the history and culture of risk management in our industry, and the work that the CWA and many individual businesses have already done to identify and address new risks related to COVID-19.

 

DOWNLOAD PAPER

 

5. Get in touch!

After you find out who is making decisions about your business, give them a call or email. They are there to represent you and your community, and they will be willing to talk – even if they are overburdened and strapped for time. It just may take a few tries and some patience.

 

You can also leverage your local business support organizations such as an SBDC or a chamber of commerce. The organization that is best positioned to help depends on what level of government you need to contact.

 

Better yet, if you, your members, or any other gyms in your state have connections to lobbyists or representatives, find out how to make that connection personal. Networking is a very effective tool in these situations.

 

Tags:  advocacy  coronavirus  COVID-19  leadership  public policy  risk management 

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Projecting Anti-Racism: Asking for Free Labor

Posted By Anaheed Saatchi, Thursday, July 16, 2020
Asking for Free Labor

Developing anti-racist businesses, organizations, philanthropic ventures and so on, requires considerable long-term investments in labor and education. The nature of working towards a future without racism is complex, nuanced, place-specific, and emergent (ever-evolving). Companies that have recently decided to pursue “becoming anti-racist” have much work to do.

 

The trending phenomena of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) being solicited for free labor has spiked since the uprisings around the United States in defense of Black lives. Industry professionals in all sectors have been put on the defensive: where they do not know how to--or do not want to-- pursue an internal review of their operations and so they post a black square, virtue signaling solidarity without real change. They might also contribute to the flooded inboxes of BIPOC and JEDI experts without offering to hire them.

 

In the act of asking for “advice”, the result is often harmful. It is extractive and perpetuates the narrative that anti-racist work can be an afterthought and not the driving force behind our socioeconomic pursuits.

 

You are not the only gym, brand, publication, club, team or, well, anyone in any industry, really, to decide now is a good time to make some changes. You are not the only one to track down that person who seems to be doing this kind of work, either professionally or because they have invested in their community. In fact, you are one of countless others who email them, or worse, direct message them on Instagram, with a paragraph explaining who you are and how dedicated you are to making changes before asking them to chat. No mention of compensation, no acknowledgment of their work as work.

 

This looks like something a lot of BIPOC have seen before - the image of a white person or institution extracting information without really doing any labor or investing anything themselves. This becomes devastating. The practice of understanding these racial optics is an anti-racist practice. Are you perpetuating a pattern of harm? Can you learn to see the bigger picture?

 

These solicitations lead to burnout for BIPOC and while you may be thinking, “it’s just a conversation,” or, “well, the person I messaged seemed happy to help,” you need to consider your own impact.

 

It is essential to understand that these are not casual conversations for non-white people. There is an extreme lack of perspective from the industry when it comes to the harm that befalls BIPOC put in these positions of having “friendly conversations” with industry members in the early stages of unlearning their own racism. Know what you’re asking: this is trauma.

 

You wouldn’t expect an engineer to build you a bridge for free, so it is not appropriate to ask a BIPOC person for their guidance without compensation. And no, a punch pass to your gym doesn’t count as currency. If you don’t have the budget to pay someone, then tap into the deep pool of online resources to educate yourself further. What you’ll invest, instead, is your time until you’ve restructured in such a way that you are able to afford hiring a consultant for your business.

 

Read/Follow/Learn:

Books

Resource Guide

Resources for Climbers of Color: For Allies

 

Instagram Accounts

 

View this post on Instagram

It is great that so many brands, organizations, and individuals are committing to social justice work - provided they follow through. But as you do, remember that no one owes you emotional labor. No one owes it to you to educate you. This includes people who do advocacy work. • Asking people to give you the emotional labor of explaining their lives is not the same thing as "lifting up our voices." Asking people to share their trauma and provide solutions so that people don't harm them again is not giving someone a platform. . There is one phrase I find particularly demeaning: "I want to pick your brain". My brain is not here for you to pick apart and use whenever and however you want. My knowledge and experience is not a resource to be extracted - my body is not a resource to be extracted. • Here are some tips when asking for free labor (i.e., information), even from advocacy groups: 1) Google is your friend. Most organizations have a website where your questions have been answered. I promise lots has been written online. Have a general understanding before you ask for more info. 2) Introduce yourself. It sounds basic but you'd be surprised how infrequently it happens. Say hello. Introduce your name and a bit about who you are and why you have questions. It shows respect and that you aren't taking the time for granted. 3) Be specific. Asking general questions takes more time to sort out exactly what you're asking. Also see 1# 4) Its ok that you don't know. You don't have to apologize. Please stop apologizing. 5) Offer something back. Give a sincere thank you. Share their work, and credit them when you use the info they gave you. Best of all, pay them for their time and expertise, whatever you can afford. • What do you wish people would do when asking for emotional labor? • [ID: an image of mountains in a purple hue, text overlaid in all caps reads "Asking for emotional labor is not giving someone a platform"]

A post shared by Disabled Hikers (@disabledhikers) on

 

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I've been trying to think through the next step for this account and where I've landed is to post activities/reflections/guided lessons for practicing different conflict skills, as well as ideas for how to start small in engaging in healthy growth-based conflict routinely. If that interests you - stay tuned! Image text: We cannot be both anti-racist and fully conflict avoidant. Our learned behaviors are often in tension with anti-racist values, which is why our best intentions are often at odds with what we actually say and do in the moment. If my homegrown conflict strategy is to avoid or walk away from conflict, how can I challenge the most insidious forms of white supremacy—those that live within myself and people close to me? Once I identify that I have learned to avoid conflict at the expense of practicing anti-racist values, I become responsible for learning new skills and strategies. Confronting racism is necessary; therefore our anti-racism depends on the practice of conflict skills and the healing of traumas and insecurities that stand in the way of action. Conflict Skills: sitting with discomfort, directness, confidence, curiosity, listening, honesty, patience, speaking toward growth rather than shame, openness rather than defensiveness, self-reflection, etc.)

A post shared by Amber 🌿(she/they)💚 (@conflicttransformation) on

 

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And this is why I wasn't down with hwhite and non-Black folks posting their black squares on social media when: 1) you weren't vocal to begin with and now you want to participate in a national blackout where you get a free pass to continue saying/doing nothing? 2) radio silence and crickets from you all since the black Square. This is performative. 3) I see many of you going right back to "normal" by rock climbing outdoors, centering yourselves in this movement, and asking for free labor from Black and Indigenous people (like we all aren't being inundated right now with requests for advice and action from brands, companies and individuals. Do you think you're truly the only one?) 4) you all are already tired and taking breaks from activism after approximately 2 minutes, citing your mental health, while Black and Indigenous people who have been keeping this tempo for years continue to disproportionately do this work. Do you think our mental health isn't suffering? Do you think we haven't known loss, grief, trauma, racism, and on top of that we still do this work daily AND know how to not act a fool and go outside without masks and climb and travel in the middle of a pandemic? What is wrong with you all! 5) Some of you didn't even post a Black square. You're still climbing away uninvolved and unbothered. If you think anyone is impressed by you using your white privilege and disposable income and generational wealth to focus on climbing rocks in the middle of a Civil Rights uprising and global pandemic then you are sorely out of touch with reality. I believe in my community to do better and this isn't it. Everyone who posted a Black square but isn't following up with action AND SELF EDUCATION, this is your call in. I am not sugarcoating how I feel for your comfort. I know you all can do better and I hold you to higher standards. We need everyone on board doing this work, not just a select few who are the most impacted by inequality & systemic racism. BOOKS BY BLACK WOMEN TO AT LEAST SELF EDUCATE: ⬇️⬇️⬇️ Me & White Supremacy (Layla Saad) So You Want to Talk about Race (Iljeoma Oluo) The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander) Eloquent Rage (Brittney Cooper)

A post shared by Mélise Marie (@meliseymo) on

 

Prioritize this labor. Pay for this labor. Hire a facilitator, guide, or coach to help you along your journey. Just make sure you appreciate the skill and expertise involved in this work, as well as the toll it takes on the educators.

 

Anaheed Saatchi Head ShotAbout the Author

Anaheed Saatchi is a queer and non-binary writer and community organizer. They cover themes of social justice, diaspora, the outdoors industry and identity politics. In 2018, they co-founded the rock climbing initiative BelayALL, based on the unceded territories of the səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w (Squamish), and šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmaɁɬ təməxʷ (Musqueam) nations. Examples of their work can be found in Alpinist Magazine and online at Melanin Base Camp.

 

Tags:  climbing culture  community development  company culture  diversity  employee engagement  human resources  JEDI  leadership  staff training 

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Considerations for Returning to Youth Programming

Posted By Headwall Group, Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Youth Climbing at Ubergrippen

Climbing gyms in many parts of the US have begun to reopen or are making plans to. The policies that gyms have created around occupancy, sanitation, and personal protective equipment are great guidelines for users. However, returning to running youth programming while keeping young climbers and other clientele safe is a unique challenge.

 

Young climbers might not be the most reliable followers of cleaning protocols, youth climbing games often involve tight quarters, and safety protocols for belaying often require proximity much closer than a recommended six feet.

 

In this post, Headwall Group will provide some recommendations for reopening youth programs. Our next post will highlight some games and activities that are suitable for newly reopened youth programs.

 

Before deciding to re-open your youth programs, make sure to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and check with your local health department. Health and safety are paramount. When the time comes to re-open your youth programs, here are some general recommendations to help get you started.

 

Communicate!

The first and most important principle that climbing gyms need to operate on is that families and young climbers need to be communicated with early and often about any changing expectations. Do not expect that the first time a new policy or protocol is communicated will be enough. We are living in a changing world and receiving new information at lightning speed, so build frequency and consistency into your communications.

 

Communicate with families in many different ways. Call families, email expectations, create handouts to go home with climbers, and post any policies and protocols in visible areas where your climbers are dropped off and picked up.

 

If the policies and procedures for youth climbing programs are different than for the gym at large, tell families and climbers, and tell them why. This will create buy-in. And, be sure to communicate with families how policies are being reevaluated. Is it monthly? Based on state or municipal guidelines? Or, are you waiting for certain testing capabilities or the release of a vaccine to relax any restrictions?

 

Be sure to check in with climbers and coaches at the beginning of each practice. “How are you feeling?” Should become part of every check-in at the beginning of practice or work. If someone appears unwell, has symptoms, or reports feeling unwell, they should not participate.

 

Communication and a clear plan for evaluating policies will ease familial anxiety and create buy-in for these new policies.

 

Sanitation

Have a sanitation protocol and include it in your daily routines. Do climbers have to wash or sanitize hands between routes? How often? Assign young climbers accountability buddies to make sure they are following protocol.

 

If social distancing protocols cannot be followed due to the size of your facility, we recommend that participants are asked to wear masks. There is a ton of evidence that suggests this can do a lot to slow down community spread.

 

Limit shared equipment. While providing shared harnesses, chalk buckets, and other equipment can increase accessibility, it is essential that shared equipment is limited or eliminated during this time. We don’t know a lot about how COVID-19 spreads through surfaces and soft goods. Families will be happy to keep their young climbers safe by purchasing their own equipment. Or, assign loaners for the season, rather than rotating them around through many hands.

 

Touching and Distancing

Social distance will be a challenge to maintain in a climbing program. But we can limit constant exposure. Have your climbers work in groups of four to five. Each group should attempt to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, significantly limiting their risk of spread or contraction of COVID.

 

Pick independent activities that require little to no time spent in a large group receiving information. Use activities that spread your climbers out around a space, rather than keeping them in a line or on a specific area.

 

We will provide some great activities that meet these needs in our next post.

 

Interaction with Other Users and Community

A goal of responding to this pandemic needs to be limiting external exposure, including off-site programming. While this may not be possible as competitions or field trips begin again, there are some ways to limit exposure. Shared transportation should be limited and if it is used, capacity should be reduced to half of standard. If hosting competitions, spectators should not be invited.

 

An evergreen challenge for climbing programs is young climber interaction with public users. This will be intensified as we are encouraged to monitor the distance that we keep from others. Use sanitation accountability buddies to check distancing. Make sure your climbers are staying a route – or some otherwise memorable distance – away from public users, and encourage self-monitoring.

 

Make It Part of Your Routine

The group’s collective health and wellbeing should be part of your group agreements or values. By tying this into the notion that a team or climbing camp must support each other, it will be easy to turn these restrictions into a positive behavior that can be praised. All of us are getting used to behaving in new ways to make sure we manage our own risk and our young climbers are no exception.

 

For more in-depth information on returning to youth programming, watch the recording of our CWA Community Call!

 

WATCH WEBINAR

 

Bix Firer and Pat Brehm Head ShotAbout the Headwall Group

The Headwall Group distills the lessons learned as educators and leaders working in dynamic and high risk environments and brings them to youth-serving organizations. The Headwall group provides trainings, consultation, and curriculum development services that are rooted in our experience as outdoor experiential educators for climbing gyms, summer camps, and schools.

 

The Headwall Group was founded by Bix Firer and Pat Brehm. Bix Firer (MA, University of Chicago) is currently the Director of Outdoor Programs at College of Idaho and has worked as a wilderness educator, trainer, facilitator, and experiential educator for over a decade. Pat Brehm works as a professional organizational trainer and has spent his career as a climbing coach, facilitator, and outdoor educator.

 

Tags:  coaching  coronavirus  COVID-19  management  operations  programming  youth team  youth training 

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An Open Letter to Congress for Further Financial Relief Measures

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Friday, July 10, 2020
Open Letter to Congress

The following is a letter written by the Climbing Wall Association to Members of Congress regarding COVID-19. The letter recommends the passage of high-priority financial relief measures that would help address the threat the ongoing pandemic poses to small businesses, including climbing gyms. A PDF version of the letter is available for download.

 

RE: URGENT REQUEST TO CONGRESS TO PASS THE HEALTH AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY OMNIBUS EMERGENCY SOLUTIONS ACT, THE PANDEMIC RISK INSURACE ACT, AND ADDRESS COMMERCIAL RENT ASSISTANCE FOR CLIMBING GYMS AND OTHER SMALL BUSINESSES

Dear Secretary Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi and Leaders McConnell, Schumer and McCarthy:

 

We are grateful Congress extended funds through expanded Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and grants within the recent Senate proposals. We are deeply concerned, however, that the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the severity of the economic impacts of extended closures and reduced capacity operations will require more urgent relief measures for small businesses.

 

As you know, employers everywhere are permanently closing due to financial distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Climbing gyms are no exception. The indoor climbing gym industry has been growing year-over-year for over 20 years and was forecasted to be an almost $1 billion industry in 2020. Climbing gyms and other fitness and recreational facilities all face severe layoffs and the threat of bankruptcy during this crisis. This has affected, and will affect, tens of thousands of Americans. Through no fault of their own, climbing gyms are losing their ability to provide for members and employees due to lost revenue on account of massive forced public safety closures and reduced capacity operations. Climbing gyms and other such facilities rely on memberships and active visits for survival.

 

The Climbing Wall Association (CWA) and its membership ask for Congress and the Administration to urgently pass the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which we hope will support the industry and its employees, who live and work in practically every Congressional District, in enduring the present COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The HEROES Act includes, but is not limited to the following measures:

  • Provides additional direct payments of up to $1,200 per individual
  • Expands paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, and payments to farmers
  • Modifies and expands the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations
  • Establishes a fund to award grants for employers to provide pandemic premium pay for essential workers
  • Expands several tax credits and deductions
  • Provides funding and establishes requirements for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing
  • Eliminates cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments
  • Extends and expands the moratorium on certain evictions and foreclosures
  • Requires employers to develop and implement infectious disease exposure control plans

The bill also modifies or expands a wide range of other programs and policies, including those regarding Medicare and Medicaid, health insurance, medical product supplies, consumer protection requirements, and pension and retirement plans.

 

We also take this opportunity to reemphasize our support of the American Society of Association Executives’ proposal for a pandemic risk insurance program (PRIP). This measure (“Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020”; PRIA) would mandate that businesses who demonstrate significant business interruption and sharp decline in present and future revenue would be insured in case of a possible pandemic or epidemic.

 

This measure would create a federal "backstop,” much like the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), for insurance claims related to a pandemic or epidemic. The specific purpose of pandemic risk insurance would be to provide for a federal loss-sharing program for certain insured losses resulting from a certified pandemic/epidemic.

 

Following are the ASAE’s proposed details for PRIA:

  1. This measure would create the PRIP, a three-year program to provide a government reinsurance backstop in the case of epidemic/pandemic.
  2. For purposes of this measure, an epidemic is defined as the occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior, or health-related events clearly in excess of normal expectancy. A pandemic is defined as an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.
  3. When the Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, certify that an “epidemic” or “pandemic” event has occurred within the confines of the United States, then this measure will immediately take effect.

The climbing industry and its employees also advocate for legislation that mandates eviction moratoriums and temporary rent relief measures for commercial tenants, especially small businesses like climbing gyms. This legislation should prohibit commercial evictions if the basis for eviction is the non-payment of rent due to financial impacts as a result of COVID-19 and should be applicable for a period of at least 3-6 months. Demonstrable financial hardship or disruption to business income due to COVID-19 is the recommended determining factor for commercial rent relief eligibility.

 

We request that Congress and the Administration enact measures to curtail the imposition of late fees and other charges related to unpaid commercial rent that may have accumulated since March 2020 due to financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to give landlords the support they need to take these steps. All levels of government and banks will need to come together to work to ease property tax and utility payments. These measures are necessary and overdue and must be enacted swiftly to avoid a massive default on rent, and the permanent closure of thousands of small businesses. The climbing industry and all small businesses need solutions that prevent us from going into unmanageable debt.

 

The business models of the climbing gym and fitness industries are uniquely vulnerable in the present crisis. As we confront this evolving and unprecedented period, we call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that America’s fitness and recreational facilities and their employees across the country can remain resilient. Tens of millions of Americans rely on these businesses in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

 

The Climbing Wall Association is the only trade association addressing the needs and interests of the indoor climbing industry. We serve climbing gyms, climbing wall operators, climbing wall manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, consultants and others involved in the climbing industry, and provide trade association services to more than 500 companies in the climbing industry. We provide relevant and actionable climbing business resources that keep the industry healthy and thriving. We do this through advocacy; developing industry standards; publishing industry news, data and analysis; sponsoring certification and professional development programs; and producing community-building and educational events.

 

Thank you for your consideration and continued support of our country during this challenging time. If you have questions regarding this urgent request for critically needed support for the fitness and recreation sectors, particularly climbing gyms, please contact Garnet Moore, CWA’s Executive Director, at garnet@climbingwallindustry.org or 720-534-2120.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rick Vance
Chairperson of the Board of Directors
Climbing Wall Association

 

Garnet Moore
Interim Executive Director
Climbing Wall Association

 

Tags:  advocacy  coronavirus  COVID-19  public policy 

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A Review of Climbing Gym Reopening Policies – May 2020

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, June 26, 2020
May Reopening Survey Results

While shaping the CWA's Roadmap to Reopening, we’ve been monitoring the various guidance that has come from many states, counties, provinces, and countries in response to COVID-19. We’ve also been speaking to a lot of gym owners and operators and surveying the industry to gain insight into trends and individual choices. This article will cover some of the hot areas of discussion and some surprising results from our research.

 

The full results of this survey can be viewed on the May 2020 Reopening Survey Dashboard

 

Opening Dates

In our first round of official surveying at the end of May, 25% of respondents had already opened their gyms or climbing walls. The remainder of facilities were expecting to open by the end of July with a few outliers looking at September and November openings. Currently, it looks like a little over half of the gyms in North America are open, but our next round of surveying in late June should give us a more solid picture – keep an eye out for the survey invitation next week!

 

Reopening Guidance

As gyms created their individual reopening plans, they relied on a number of different resources. The hyper-local nature of laws and regulations are reflected by the fact that more than three quarters of gyms were guided by local county, state, and provincial authorities.

 

Sources of Reopening Guidance

 

Visitor Agreements

By the end of May many gyms had not added COVID-19 specific language to their visitor agreements and had not sought any legal advice as to whether or not they should. About 25% of gyms had added specific clauses to their agreements with only 15% of total respondents consulting a lawyer. It is the CWA’s advice to consult a local attorney to help answer the question of whether or not you should add any specific COVID-19 related clauses. There are a number of states where this may not be an appropriate addition.

 

Occupancy Limits and Controls

On average, gyms are setting an occupancy cap at 35% of their normal occupancy limits. The maximum occupancy reported was 50% and the minimum 10%. As expected, a plurality of gyms are self-limiting to a more conservative number for their initial reopening capacities.

 

Occupancy Limit

 

The majority of respondents are using reservation systems and time blocks to manage occupancy. For the most part these time blocks are 2 hours long and most often only available to members and punch pass holders. Only 30% of gyms are allowing day pass sales during their initial reopening phase.

 

Our current feedback on these policies is that customers are enjoying reservation systems, but that most gyms are not reaching capacity during most time blocks. We are seeing some gyms shift away from this extra service. We will continue to survey and monitor these policies.

 

Occupancy

 

Rental Gear Policies

About 25% of gyms have chosen not to offer rental gear as they reopen, but most gyms have chosen to continue offering a large assortment of rentals. The notable exception is the small number of gyms renting chalk bags and a presumable increase in gyms offering liquid chalk as a rental.

 

Rental Gear

 

Chalk Policies

About 20% of gyms have made no change in their chalk policies and 20% have taken the stronger measure of only allowing liquid chalk. More than a third of gyms are recommending liquid chalk over regular chalk but not making any stronger requirements.

 

Chalk Policy

 

Mask Policies

Surprisingly, not every gym is requiring staff to wear masks. Only 85% of gyms make this a requirement. Of those that don’t require employees to wear masks, half do encourage this extra measure of PPE.

 

Staff Masks

 

It is slightly less common for gyms to require customers to wear masks with over 60% of gyms requiring some form of mask wearing, 85% requiring or recommending masks, and only 14% not requiring or recommending masks. Many of these mask policies are self-imposed with only 20% of respondents reporting that they are mandated by local authorities to require masks.

 

Customer Masks

 

Physical Distancing Policies

When it comes to encouraging physical distancing, gyms have employed a variety of different strategies. The most common tactics involved signage, floor markings, and traffic control. Additionally, many gyms have closed or limited access to locker rooms and showers. Very few gyms have made no changes at all. Only 20% of gyms have limited the number of belay tests and new climber orientations. This is inline with the fact that the majority of gyms are accepting new memberships and attempting to move towards restarting adult and youth programs.

 

Physical Distancing

 

Ongoing Development of Reopening Policies and Best Practices

We will continue to monitor and report gym and climbing wall policies as more and more facilities reopen. To help us gather industry-wide information, please continue to participate in our monthly reopening surveys.

 

Take the June survey now!

 

When it comes to deciding on the individual protocols for your own facility, use all available resources, survey your members, and monitor all rules and guidance, as many localities are evolving rapidly. You will need to remain flexible as new attitudes and mandates emerge.

 

To end on a bright note, the overall economic impact to our industry is severe, but the majority of organizations reported that they would be able to weather closures as long as 6 months to 1 year or more. As we begin to reopen, the outlook will hopefully be brighter as we learn to operate under new assumptions and rules.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Interim Executive Director at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, serving gyms, manufacturers, and many climbing friends and partners.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer service  hygiene  management  operations  PPE  risk management  staff training  workplace safety 

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