d+k Q and A – First Ascent Climbing

At d+k, we take pride in connecting with our clients and partnering in their success and happiness.  To provide some insight on our process and how we provide a comprehensive level of service to a variety of clients, we are sharing a series of conversations with clients that have completed projects with us recently.  First up is First Ascent Climbing, an indoor climbing and fitness community with several Chicago area locations, and more on the way – we spoke with Dan Bartz, Director of Marketing and Adult Programming.


d+k : What is First Ascent’s ultimate goal as a business? (Where do you see First Ascent in the next 5 years?)

DB: Our mission is to serve and grow the climbing community by creating a warm, welcoming “third place” for people of all ability levels to experience adventure, explore movement, meet new people, connect with old friends, and enjoy life in real life – no devices required.

That mission has enabled us to impact thousands of people in Chicago and Peoria over the last few years, and making that impact really is our ultimate goal. As we consider the future, we’re excited to continue expanding our impact by building more First Ascent locations in the Chicagoland area and beyond.

Some have asked us: why do you think climbing is so popular right now? There are many reasons we could point to, but I think the best reason is simple: people need to move, and traditional fitness is boring and isolating for many. Boutique fitness is exploding because it’s fun and social. Climbing creates that same fun, social vibe with a splash of adventure and a dash of problem solving. It engages the full person: body, mind, heart, and soul. And a climbing gym makes all of that accessible and approachable for the general public. If that sounds exciting to you, then let’s climb!

We also feel the sector of boutique and specialized fitness facilities is growing because of the increased density of urban locations populated with our target demographic.  Customers might not be willing or able to drive long distances to get to locations that fit large, traditional gyms.  They want to be able to walk to their workout, or drive less than 5 minutes if possible.  Smaller, specialized facilities can more easily fit into dense neighborhoods and still be profitable.


d+k : How did d+k integrate with your team?

 DB : d+k team members made a sincere effort to work with us as a partner, and act from a ‘pursuit of understanding’ towards the specialized needs of our business.  HVAC, lighting, and other building basics have to be approached differently in a climbing facility, and d+k made a more concerted effort to listen to our concerns and integrate them into the design than other firms we have worked with in the pas

d+k : How has your brand identify evolved since working with d+k? (Has d+k, Help/assisted in this?)

DB : d+k helped elevate the ‘fit and finish’ of our branding and corporate identity, and achieved it in an affordable way.  They were able to integrate our brand into lighting, finish and furniture selection, color choices, and the design in general.

d+k : Where do yfirstacent2018teasers-007ou think d+k has added value within First Ascent projects?

DB : The design team provided guidance as to where to add aesthetic focus, and that process became streamlined as designs for subsequent locations were composed.  Each iteration has made the design process more successful and efficient for both FA and the design team

d+k : What did d+k bring to the table that might have surprised you?

DB : Their level of attention to detail and their effort to understand FA in all aspects was a pleasant surprise.  From a marketing standpoint, FA found that having an ‘aesthetic partner’ in the d+k team meant that photography, presentation of the spaces, and first impressions of customers all became more successful.  It was appreciated that d+k brought with them an appreciation for professional photography and how the space will be shown on social and print media.  User response has been positive, with great feedback from members, guests, and even from pro climbers like Alex Honnold, who called the Block 37 location a ‘next level’ facility.


d+k : What could d+k have done better? (within the process)

DB :  While we don’t have complaints about our experiences thus far, we are confident that the First Ascent team is continuing to learn from and observe how we interact with our new spaces.  We intend to relay any new concerns or necessary changes to the team and d+k, knowing they will find solutions that evolve with us and our business as it grows.

All photography by Kyle Flubacker Photography