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First Ascent: Equipping the Chicago Rock Climbing Gym To Host National Events

First Ascent Climbing Gym in Arlington Heights boasts 26,000 square feet of climbing terrain with height walls up to 60ft. The center also offers climbing training, yoga studios, a complete workout gym, and dedicated WiFi for workspaces.

First Ascent initially approached Encompass Connect with a local Chicago rock climbing buildout inside Block 37 shopping center. Large retail spaces remain available for pennies on the dollar, leaving a perfect opportunity for a large rock climbing gym.

Now, First Ascent has 5 locations in Chicagoland, one in Peoria, IL, and another in Pittsburgh, PA. Encompass Connect installed Sound, AI-based Surveillance, WiFi, and structured cabling for all locations.

The Problem
First Ascent wished to be an excellent venue for climbers of all skill levels and wanted to be able to accommodate the best of the best and host the USA Climbing Championships at the Arlington Heights location.
They already had the climbing part perfected, but to host such an important event for the rock climbing world, the sound and connectivity in the gym needed to be excellent throughout the giant space. Climbers and media needed to be able to hear important announcements, get on the PA system, and reliably use WiFi in all corners of the gym.

The sound and connectivity needed to be flawless throughout the building to be offered the opportunity to host competitions. When installing AV and IT equipment for First Ascent, how would Encompass find the perfect balance of economical and extravagant?

The Solution
Many challenges awaited Encompass for Arlington Heights. Finding an electric lift to go up to 60 feet was highly exhausting. Cat6 cable had to be planned since each cable cannot run longer than 300ft. Security cameras needed to have eyes on every crevice of the gym.

Encompass completed its planning phase for the main climbing gym and developed a specific solution. The speakers were required to be exposed; Encompass hung high-output pendant speakers from JBL from the ceiling. Since they were so high, a narrow coverage range would be necessary to ensure each speaker was not distributed too far.

In the private party rooms, recessed ACS-55T speakers from Martin Audio gave the host of the room the ability to control the music for their sessions easily. The two yoga studios were also installed with ACS-55T’s and BlueTooth capabilities to let the instructors play their music throughout the yoga session.

The workout facility also had lower exposed ceilings requiring smaller pendant speakers without narrow coverage. ACP-55T’s from Martin Audio fit the bill very nicely and gave the members using the workout equipment a high-energy sound experience.

The main requirement in the main climbing gym was the microphone system. To run a successful competition, an announcer needed to walk anywhere in the main gym and maintain good microphone reception. Encompass established a large microphone antenna array to pick up the signal from a Shure QLX wireless microphone all around the gym floor.

The WiFi system was equally robust. A Ubiquiti system with 17 different access points to fully supply a large number of people throughout the facility with fast, uninterrupted WiFi. Encompass Connect used only AI-Based Verkada cameras for surveillance, many with 360° capabilities.

The Result

First Ascent in Arlington Heights successfully gained eligibility for the USA Climbing Championships and hosted numerous other high-profile tournaments that brought significant opportunities in the rock climbing space.

After successful completions of Arlington Heights and Block 37, First Ascent tasked Encompass with installing the same system in Peoria and Pittsburgh locations. First Ascent has committed to using Encompass Connect with all future areas as they continue to grow into a big play in the recreation industry.

How Empty Retail Space Is Being Utilized
Many recreation and entertainment-type businesses take advantage of this high supply of empty retail space. Not many need as much space as a climbing gym, but golfing simulation centers, bowling alleys, paintball arenas, and more fun service-based businesses are moving into these empty spaces.

If you’re thinking about starting a retail space buildout for your entertainment or recreation company, seek out Encompass Connect BEFORE you start! Doing so will save you time, money, and headaches and make sure your grand opening goes off smoothly.

We will out-plan, out-think and out-execute any designer or installer you’ve ever hired.