MORRISVILLE — There isn’t a time of day when the Triangle Rock Club isn’t hopping.
Between track-out camps, lock-ins, membership appreciation nights, Meetup.com groups, summer camps, school classes, birthday parties and team practices, it’s tough to find wall space at the gym.
More than 1,000 new visitors come through the doors and up the walls each month at Triangle Rock Club, which opened in Morrisville in 2007.
The gym has more than doubled its membership over the past two years; it now has about 1,200 members.
A year ago, Triangle Rock Club owners set out to triple the amount of climbing space at the facility, but it still wasn’t enough to keep up with demand – especially after Vertical Edge in Durham closed in December.
In response, Triangle Rock Club is growing. The company plans to open a new gym in North Raleigh in September.
Meanwhile, the owners – Andrew Kratz, Luis Jauregui and Joel Graybeal – are scouting for a third location in Durham or Chapel Hill.
And they have plans to expand to Charlotte and the Triad in the next three to five years, Graybeal said.
Once renovations are complete at the Morrisville site, Triangle Rock Club will be the biggest climbing gym in the state and one of the biggest in the region.
A physical, social experience
So how did a young business grow so explosively during an economic recession?
By creating a social experience, Graybeal said.
During the downturn, some people might have cut back on expenses such as doctor visits. But plenty of people were willing to shell out the $50 monthly membership fee at Triangle Rock.
“It’s about the experience,” Graybeal said. “When you leave the doctor’s office, you don’t always feel good. When you leave here, you do.”
Once customers visit the first time, they often come back. A kid might visit the gym through a school program, then want to return during track-out, then come back for a birthday party, Graybeal said.
Stefan Gruber, 27, of Raleigh was introduced to the gym through a friend and has been coming back for more than two years.
“It’s a good spot to train and practice. It has a lot of variety,” Gruber said.
Every three to four months, the gym changes all the walls’ terrain routes to create new challenges for more-experienced climbers.
When the North Raleigh location opens, the monthly membership fee will jump to $59.
Jamie Foehl, 35, of Durham said she isn’t looking forward to the higher price; she doesn’t want to drive all the way to Raleigh to climb. But she is looking forward to smaller crowds at the Morrisville gym.
Foehl got hooked on climbing after she and her sister went on an outdoor climbing trip in September. When she got home, she searched online for area gyms and found Triangle Rock Club.
“It’s a mental and physical sport,” Foehl said. “You have to use your mind, strength and endurance. It’s a playground for grown-ups.”
There’s also a social aspect.
“I have a group of people that I climb with,” Foehl said. “When I first came here, I didn’t know anybody and I almost quit being a member ... but I found a group and met other people.”
Triangle Rock Club even started a Meetup.com group to bring climbing enthusiasts together. The group now has more than 650 members.
Popular among school groups
The company has seen the most growth in school groups and track-out camps.
“It’s exploded,” Graybeal said. “We’re not baby sitters. We teach kids life skills. We focus on the three Cs: character, courage and confidence.”
When Graybeal, who has a background in aerospace engineering and business development, came on board in 2011, he had no idea the gym would take off like it has.
The Morrisville expansion is set to be complete early next year. The gym will have more than 24,000 square feet of terrain and 100 climbing lanes with heights up to 50 feet.
The club’s new facility in North Raleigh will have 13,500 square feet of climbing space, a 30-foot wall, free-standing climbing pillar and more than 74 climbing lanes.