Here’s a climbing update on everything here for you wonderful people (Project Breakout escape rooms, R1DE and The Millers Bar pub remain very much open as usual):
ROKT Climbing Gym closed its doors, like all business, to the public on the 20th March 2020. Throughout that time the business did everything possible to stay viable. But with rent, utilities and rates to service, the business has debts to clear. We even flooded just before the first lockdown and during another.
THE BAD NEWS
We’ve done everything we can to find a way – including drawing up several detailed plans – but the really sad news is that it’s just not financially possible to reopen to the public which would increase debts, with only footfall there to try and service the increased costs of operation. Heart-breaking doesn’t even come close to how we feel after a decade of hard work and huge investment to the tune of several million pounds – only to find ourselves in this situation.
We know that there may be some people who feel disappointed or even frustrated by this, but please bear in mind how we feel after all that investment, time, effort and multiple comebacks after devastating flooding that would have likely finished most businesses a long time ago. The financial and mental toll has built up, but we tried to hold on every time the water hit us.
THE GOOD NEWS
We plan to run a series of brand new charity open days to give you wonderful people the chance to come and rope climb, boulder and more while raising money for our growing ROKT Foundation charity and potentially other partners. It’s going to take a bit of time to organise and make sure all the boxes are ticked before we can confirm anything, but that’s our plan so bear with us. We get it’s not like climbing weekly, but it’s a chance to get back on the walls in ROKT and for great causes. This approach means we can manage and forward plan our costs without the financial costs and risks of daily opening (see below).
We are also expanding our new corporate group experience and opening that up to any group, whether it be a bunch of mates, work colleagues or whoever. The experiences are structured (so no free climbing) but again it’s another chance to get together here and experience a structured package featuring a mix of instructor-led rope climbing, bouldering, abseiling, caving and escape rooms Monday to Friday, subject the availability. See www.roktclimbinggym.co.uk/groups/corporate-groups-team-building/
Project Breakout escape rooms, R1DE and The Millers Bar pub remain very much open as usual.
Finally we are also working on a deal to reopen ROKTFACE, the UK’s highest outdoor man-made climbing wall, for pre-booked group and charity fundraisers too. Again, it’s a work in progress, but once we know if it’s a 100% goer we’ll let you all know.
ROKT FOUNDATION & ROKTAGONS & SCHOOLS
Most of our efforts will rightly go into running, supporting and promoting our charity the ROKT Foundation, which is doing incredible work to improve the lives of kids and adults across West Yorkshire.
The charity exists to engage, empower and inspire those who need help the most across West Yorkshire and hopefully beyond. You can find out more about the work we’ve been doing at www.ROKTfoundation.co.uk
We are also very much open for school bookings so please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about visiting with your school.
In addition our ROKTAGON outdoor climbing play equipment service is very much up and running. So if you know somewhere that wants an awesome outdoor climbing structure for all abilities then email email@example.com Made from recycled plastic panels, tough, with thousands of route combinations – come and have a look at the one at our sister pub, The Millers Bar, opposite our main building www.roktagon.co.uk
So why isn’t it financially viable?
Fair question and we’ll try to briefly explain – we always promised we’d be as honest as possible.
By opening to the general public our staffing, additional insurance costs and building running costs – like energy which is at eye-watering prices – go through the roof and we’d need a level of customer footfall, which the centre has never come close to attracting, just to break even at best. That all points to a sizeable loss each month if we reopen, which isn’t sustainable.
Most other climbing centres don’t have a layout like ours either, spread over lots of small rooms and floors in a very old building which requires a lot of upkeep. That means more staff are required than most centres for things like floors walks, face-to-face inductions and safety checks to name but a few things.
Given the initial fit out costs when we first opened, the ongoing rent and the significant flood damage on at least four separate occasions (from which we are still recovering), the business has never turned a consistent profit since we first opened.
That means there’s no big pile of cash reserves to fall back on, especially after taking into account all the money invested and high financial costs associated with several floods.
Again, most other climbing centres that are back open haven’t faced that horrible mental and physical impact of seeing their business submerged under water, thankfully.
The most recent flood was a couple of months ago and it was absolutely horrible. The hit is huge both financially and mentally when you see the business you’ve tried to build being washed away time and again.
What we have worked out is that we can viably operate small pre-bookable group experiences, which means we can plan ahead knowing exactly what income will be generated and costs in terms of staffing and insurance. Put simply we know the costs and income before it happens and it works. The overheads are far less which means we can sustainably run this way, unlike opening for general climbing as explained above. It also means if we know there’s a risk of flooding, it’s easier to plan ahead and mitigate that risk.
Why have we taken so long to arrive at this decision?
Well, we’ve purposely taken a huge amount of time to work out how to reopen to the public – first under varying Covid restrictions and then once the restrictions lifted. Several economic models have been drawn up and considered but they all end up the same, amounting to a huge loss each year based around the points above.
This is now compounded by sky-rocketing energy prices and given the age and layout of our building, it’s a colossal place to heat with associated huge price tag especially during peak indoor climbing season in the winter months.
***Thank you all***
Thank you to our customers, those who came when we needed you most, those who learned to climb here, those who ever grabbed a hold, climbed a route or belayed a buddy.
Thank you all for your patience, understanding and support – and thank you in advance for supporting our growing charity, ROKT Foundation.
Love from ROKT x