y way of information, it may interest you to know that Harris Publishing—the parent company of Today’s Playground—publishes a number of periodicals across the subject spectrum. One is a trade journal for the potato farming industry. Another focuses on home-based businesses. Of course, we’ve got our skatepark magazine in the mix, as well as two boating titles, two snowmobiling magazines and a handful of others.
If there is one thing we’ve learned in our more than 30 years in this business, it’s that each respective market indicates its growth through the introduction of new products. When markets slow down, the tapering-off of announcements serves as a canary in the mine, so to speak.
We’d like to say we haven’t seen this phenomenon “play out” in many of the markets we serve, but let’s face it: In many sectors, times are slow. So at the very least, it has been refreshing to see the steady stream of product introductions continue to flow from the play equipment and play-aftermarket industries and on to the pages of Today’s Playground.
Case in point: This issue takes a close look at the growth in individual play events that feature an element of “rock climbing.” Aside from its apparent novelty to children and their fickle recreational tastes, this type of event reflects the growing interest in such nontraditional equipment as well as the sport of rock climbing itself.
According to Tyler Stableford, editor of Rock & Ice, the sport of climbing (in all its derivative forms) has grown substantially over the last several years.
“In the last decade, the number of active climbers has grown from 200,000 to 450,000 today. Those are pretty conservative numbers, and don’t include people who climb a few times a year indoors or outdoors, but are, rather, more active enthusiasts.”
One potential red flag for some of you is that these pint-sized rock walls represent a slowly growing “fringe sport” that has suddenly morphed into a full-fledged fad. Well, we’ve heard this sort of thing before, haven’t we? This concern comes to us periodically in regards to skateparks. It shouldn’t, because like climbing walls, skateparks are nothing new, actually. They existed as drained swimming pools decades before the real deal started showing up in downtown recreation land.
And a similar sentiment holds true for rock climbing.
Stableford notes that “there are approximately 500 indoor climbing gyms in the U.S. now, whereas a decade ago there were only a handful.”
In other words, it was only a matter of time until we’d start seeing simulated rock climbing structures popping up on our industry’s radar.
What other new events are coming down the pike? The beauty of it is, we don’t fully know. Materials will certainly continue to improve, and yes there are structural experiments that will come and go. But if a growing pastime like rock climbing is any indicator, we will continue to see a synthesis in recreational activities that will surely keep this market rolling strong for years to come.