A Peak Performer

Rock climbing gym owner reaches new heights in fitness

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Azemar King is climbing the mountain of success — literally. Owner of Climb-Max!!!, the only indoor rock climbing gym in New Orleans, King has carved out a niche in the world of fitness that has earned him over $250,000 in revenues.

King, 28, became a fan of the sport three years ago after visiting a rock climbing gym in Arlington, Texas. “It was a thrill, a rush, a great physical workout and it’s safe,” says King, who also serves in the Marine Corps Reserve. Impressed by the Arlington gym, in 1994, King began researching ways to start his own. He studied the sport by visiting a mountaineering school in Lawton, Oklahoma. “It was a weekend beginners class. I learned how to tie knots and I got some real rock under my feet and hands to get a feeling of what it’s like to climb outdoors,” he says.

King says securing start-up capital was difficult at first. “Nobody seemed to want to invest in a rock climbing gym because it was a risky business,” he recalls. But King didn’t give up. He obtained a $30,000 loan from First Bank and Trust in New Orleans and a $20,000 loan from the Small Business Administration. Along with loans from family and friends, he also borrowed against his credit cards, bringing the total investment to $100,000.

King leased a warehouse, built walls with pseudo rocks, purchased other equipment and hired the owners of the Arlington gym as consultants. The six-employee firm has a total of 35 walls, with over 5,000 sq. ft. of climbing surface. All of the walls are 25 ft. tall.

Today, King has over 8,000 clients. “We have doctors, lawyers, nurses, college students and lots of kids,” he says. “We also have Boy Scout troops and other youth organizations, and we cater to competing teams of rock climbers.” Fitness buffs can pay $5 to rent equipment, $10 for a day pass, or $45 for a monthly. King says newcomers get a training session before climbing. To prevent accidents, all climbers are attached to a harness and ropes.

King is now working on a program for corporate executives that will use rock climbing as a way to build trust among team members.

King’s climb to success may be on the rocks, but that’s OK with him.

Climb-Max!!!, 5304 Canal Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70124; 504- 486-7600