OnSite – Changing the world one boulder at a time.
OnSite is a new climbing wall manufacturer based in Quebec focused on building innovative climbing structures that combine cutting-edge aesthetics and function to help drive the sport forward. We caught up with OnSite's owner Francis Larose and discussed the growth of indoor climbing, OnSite's design philosophy and working in the video game industry.
Up The Bloc in Mississauga is one of the many gyms OnSite will build in 2017.
Congratulations on the new business. Can you tell us who’s involved with OnSite and their previous climbing/business background?
OnSite: I founded the company with Pascal Godin, an old friend who is an industrial designer. Pascal has been climbing for a long time and working for a couple of years as a manager at the Allez Up climbing gym in Montreal. We’ve been climbing together for years.
One day Pascal and I were on a bouldering trip to Bolton, VT. and we had a super brainstorm. We thought we had to find a way to make bouldering more accessible and that's how the project started.
I come from the video game industry where I have been involved with starting up businesses from 2001 to 2013. I finally decided that I wanted to focus more on outdoor opportunities than computers!
Why start a climbing wall company?
Actually, the sport climbing industry is doing very well indeed, and here are a few numbers to prove it:
- Every day, an estimated 3000 people climb for the first time, adding to the 25 million climbers worldwide.
- The number of climbing gyms in North America has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
- Climbing will be part of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
These growth numbers represent an unprecedented opportunity for producers of climbing walls and climbing gyms.
And this is precisely the challenge that we are embracing at OnSite. We are dedicated to designing and producing exceptional bouldering spaces.
OnSite staff working hard to complete Up The Bloc in Mississuaga.
You recently completed the Up The Bloc in Mississauga, Ontario. Can you tell us about that project?
OnSite: I worked with Jean-Marc de la Plante at Allez-Up and Seven Bays Bouldering as a finance and business consultant. Jean-Marc told me about his project to open a new gym in the suburbs of Toronto with Luigi Montilla. The project instantly attracted our attention and we decided to seize this opportunity.
For this first project, we were in charge of the mechanical engineering, manufacturing and wall assembly. Jean-Marc and Luigi had already done the wall geometry.
While we helped on different aspects of the design, our primary job was to make the best possible walls. It's been quite an intense experience for a first project!
We had some surprises with city permits and engineering, but we pushed through thanks to our amazing assembly team who worked very hard on this project. The result is tremendous – 4500 square feet of walls with various angles and a great texture. This is a great gym.
Another view of one the main walls at Up The Bloc, a climbing gym built by OnSite.
Are you working on any other exciting projects that you can share with us?
Yes, right now, we are working on three new bouldering gyms in Quebec and we have seven projects in the discussion phase. We are not only designing walls, but entire gyms as well. With our core expertise at OnSite, we are able to build the gyms' identity. We are looking for exactly this kind of project. Unfortunately, we can’t share all these details right now, but you can stay connected at www.theonsite.com
where we will share any updates.
What specific services/skills do you feel Onsite offers that differentiates you from other wall manufacturers?
We try to focus on the development of bouldering by putting our energy in the creation of a new generation of bouldering walls where climbers' dreams, art and design are key. Our architectural and industrial design approach makes us different in many ways. We want to work with the gym owner to create a unique final project that will help them achieve their goals.
At OnSite, we consider each wall as a piece of art. From initial concepts to installation, each step in the process helps push the climbing experience further forward. We've applied that same focus to our new website – www.theonsite.com
A prototype of OnSite's new panels.
Do you offer different wall surfaces?
OnSite: Yes, we offer different coatings and colours depending on the textures and look we design with the client.
OnSite staff are focused on building great climbing walls.
What do you see as some of the current trends in wall design and construction?
OnSite: We find that there is a huge gap between small manufacturers and a few of the big wall building companies in the market. This has led to similar-looking gym spaces and an increase in prices that’s ultimately not healthy for the sport climbing industry. That's why we’ve positioned ourselves to deliver outstanding walls at affordable prices. As for climbing wall trends, there are some interesting things coming down the pike, but I can’t talk about that right now. Just consider Up the Bloc as the beginning of something new. I’ll have more details in the near future!
OnSite staff love building new climbing walls.
Ok, now for a fun question. If money is no object, what does your ideal climbing gym look like?
OnSite: Actually, we are already building amazing climbing gyms! They really embody all the qualities I would like to see in my ideal gym. Much of this stems from our core design guidelines, which drives us to create structures that combine functional integrity with visual harmony. We also tend to adhere to a notion that I brought from the video game industry: “A project is done when it’s done.” We are not here to just make money. We are passionate about climbing and I think it shows in the quality of the climbing structures that we produce.
OnSite staff relaxing after a long day of wall construction.
What are your thoughts on the recent growth in popularity of climbing gyms? Is it sustainable?
OnSite: Yes, of course, the sport is growing, but there is still a big gap before we reach the same market saturation that exists in Europe. Moreover, as the market grows, it will also change and create new opportunities. Our medium and long-term strategy includes the launch of new concepts and products that will contribute to the international development of rock climbing.
The impressive cave structure at Up The Bloc built by OnSite.
What advice would you offer to anyone considering opening a climbing gym?
OnSite: Give us a call! We can help you on everything from the initial vision to the opening.
You can get more information about OnSite at http://www.theonsite.com/
Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 25 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid 80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.