High-end climbing gyms started popping up in New York City and San Francisco in the nineties. But the new surprise hub? Atlanta, home to the country’s largest, the year-old Stone Summit Climbing and Fitness Center, a 45,000-square-foot facility with 60-foot-tall crags and a bouldering room.
Stone Summit’s director of operations, 28-year-old Daniel Luke, realizes that building such a huge space was a gamble, especially in a city with an athletic scene dominated by ball sports. “The climbing culture in Atlanta was not very large, so we were nervous going into this,” he says. But Stone Summit and other new climbing cathedrals like San Diego’s Mesa Rim and Boulder’s Movement are turning solid profits. Luke estimates that Stone Summit attracts 2,000 novices a month, many of whom eventually spring for a $500 annual membership. Luke’s goal? Welcome a new group of climbers and give at least a few rock rats something completely novel: steady employment. “Our staff are passionate climbers who can pursue their career at this gym,” says Luke. “That means a better quality of employee and better customer service.”