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Concord’s evo Rock + Fitness expands with licensed locations in Maine, Indiana

SCS competition at Evolution Rock + Fitness, Concord, NH; Saturday, May 10, 2014.
(Alexander Cohn Photography)

SCS competition at Evolution Rock + Fitness, Concord, NH; Saturday, May 10, 2014. (Alexander Cohn Photography)

Less than a year and a half after opening its doors in Concord, evo Rock + Fitness is branching out with two new locations, in Maine and Indiana.

The new locations will be licensed to use the same brand Hilary Harris, owner and general manager, has built at the Concord rock climbing gym, but she will only be actively involved with the Portland, Maine, location, which is due to open in January.

“The intention is most definitely to be building more of these around the country, to build a brand that will continue to grow. I believe we can take this anywhere,” Harris said. “The climbing industry has exploded so much in the last five years, from small gyms to large scale, and it’s become much more mainstream.”

Harris, a Penacook resident, architect and former semiprofessional sport climber who was active in international competitions, spent years developing the plans and financing for the Concord gym, the largest indoor climbing facility in the state.

Organizing financing for the Maine project was much easier, partly because of evo’s established brand and partly because Harris is collaborating with the Maine Rock Gym, which has been operating in Portland for about 20 years.

“They’re bursting at the seams and have been needing to expand for years,” she said. “We have a really solid team and a facility that’s state of the art, designed to accommodate the world’s best climbers and also cater to beginners.”

Workers poured the foundation for the Portland gym’s new building, which Harris expects to cost about $2.7 million, last week.

The Indianapolis location, which has been under development for several years and will likely cost less to develop because it is going inside an existing building, is due to open in December, Harris said.

The gym will be located in the southern part of the city, which already hosts one climbing gym in the northern part, she said.

She said she believes larger markets like Indianapolis, with a metro-area population of about 2.3 million, can probably expect to see multiple climbing-oriented gyms pop up in the coming years, as brands begin licensing or issuing franchises.

“What we’re seeing is the brands that are expanding nationally have their own story and their own image. It remains to be seen how large of an industry it can be,” she said. “It has certainly happened with health and fitness, with your Planet Fitness and your Bally’s. Climbing is still, not in its infancy, but creeping into toddler stage, so we’re going to see massive growth in the next five years.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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