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With COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, confirmed in the majority of US states, climbing gyms are now closing their doors. The country’s largest national network of climbing gyms, El Cap– owner of the Earth Treks, Planet Granite, and Movement climbing gym chains–announced on March 14 that they will temporarily close all locations.
A statement on the Earth Treks website explained the decision:
To do our part to protect our community during the COVID-19 outbreak effective Sunday, March 15th, Earth Treks will be closing all gyms and canceling all classes and events through the remainder of March.
We understand that climbing, fitness, and yoga is a vital part of our lives. The health and well being of our members, guests, and employees is our top priority.
Therefore we have come to the difficult conclusion that a temporary closure is the safest next step we can take for our community.
In some areas, authorities have announced mandatory business closures. Six Bay-area counties in California are now ordering residents to “shelter in place,” only leaving their homes for essential services. In Washington, gyms (of all kinds) have been ordered to close until March 31. Elsewhere in the country, climbing gyms are closing voluntarily.
Brooklyn Boulders and the Salt Lake City-based Momentum gyms have announced their own closures. And, in Climbing Magazine’s hometown of Boulder, Colorado, all of the nearby gyms have taken similar measures. Boulder Rock Club, The Spot, ABC Kids Climbing, EVO (including all of their Colorado locations), Longmont Bouldering Collective, and The Ice Coop are all closed. Most gyms list the closures as running until the end of March or “until further notice.”
Update 3/17/20: Shortly after publishing this article, Colorado governor Jared Polis ordered all gyms in the state to close. Several other states, such as Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, have similar mandates in place.”
The coronavirus has had wide implications on the economy, with the stock market falling precipitously since mid-February. Climbing gyms, and their employees, will now feel the effects as well. Gyms will miss out on revenue from day passes as well as memberships—the gyms Climbing surveyed stated that they will pro-rate March membership fees (check with your own gym to confirm). And gym employees may lose wages, though some gyms have pledged to mitigate this.
The closure statement from Movement does not go into specifics, but reads, “The financial security of our employees is a priority and they will be taken care of.”
Some gym patrons have encouraged fellow members to decline the pro-rated membership fees from smaller gym companies, stressing that the disruption could cause a significant hardship for businesses. For example, a post on the Boulder Rock Club’s partner-finder Facebook group reads, “For those of you who can afford to, support this vital, local small business and consider requesting they NOT pro-rate your fee. This is such a tough time for local businesses.”
This is just the latest in a string of disruptions to climbing caused by the coronavirus. Last week, China and Nepal closed Mount Everest to climbers for the season over virus concerns. USA Climbing has postponed national events. The IFSC has cancelled or postponed World Cups and World Championship competitions. And the fate of the Olympics is in question, with a decision expected in May.