Over half of all leisure time is spent watching television. In an environment where sedentary activities dominate entertainment, ropes courses stand apart. The ropes course industry offers a unique, active alternative to TV-viewing and other passive pastimes.
Ropes courses offer consumers a fun time scaling tall structures and facing challenging obstacles. They also provide valuable physical activity and create team-building opportunities. As a new, different and engaging form of entertainment, a ropes course is a profitable idea for a business. There are several reasons why building a ropes course may be the right decision for you and your community.
Read the full guide or jump to a specific section:
- Advantages of Opening a Ropes Course
- How to Get Your Ropes Course Started
- Ropes Course Profitability
- Types of Ropes Courses
- Innovative High Ropes Equipment for Your Facility
Advantages of Opening a Ropes Course
Sustaining a business relies on generating enough revenue to cover operating expenses, with capital left to invest and grow. Though earning profit and growing can be rewarding, perhaps the greatest reward is running a business that adds value to the community. The ropes course industry excels in both business and consumer matters, making it a well-rounded investment.
A high ropes course has several business benefits, including:
- Profitability: As part of the recreation business, ropes courses contribute to a $427.2 billion industry. Ropes courses are well-known and exciting like amusement parks, but they don’t take on an overwhelming amount of competition or daily visitors.
- Location flexibility: Ropes course businesses are highly versatile in size and location. High ropes course equipment can be installed indoors or outdoors, and each location configuration offers benefits. Indoor ropes courses can operate all year round regardless of weather conditions. Outdoor ropes courses don’t require a large facility to house equipment. Both indoor and outdoor ropes course equipment can be adjusted to your budget and space requirements. However you plan on operating your ropes course, you can build your facility to match.
- Customer base: The customers who use ropes courses come to the facility for fun and excitement. As a result, the groups of people ropes courses host and entertain are usually happy customers. Happy customers can mean less time and resources spent on customer service and a greater focus on providing a quality experience and facility.
- Dynamic and repeatable: Unlike many entertainment options, a ropes course is highly repeatable. First-time customers can get a taste of the course’s challenges and return later to work on improving their skills. Customers may even return with groups to share their experience with others. With so much to do, a ropes course makes a dynamic entertainment business.
- Workforce attraction: Hiring energetic and qualified employees is an important task for a ropes course owner. Fortunately, this type of work can attract young workers in college. You can offer high-quality jobs to students who are looking for exciting and meaningful positions while on summer break.
In addition to business benefits, a high ropes course has several consumer benefits:
- Group bonding opportunity: An entertainment option rarely offers the level of bonding and camaraderie that ropes courses provide. Eating out and watching a movie are fun entertainment options, but it can be difficult to find restaurants and films that appeal to a group of varied ages and tastes. Families, friends and coworkers are on a level playing field when they step into a ropes course. As they navigate the structure, they can all enjoy the experience together.
- Team-building opportunity: Completing a ropes course can increase self-esteem, group cohesion, leadership skills and self-efficacy. For this reason, ropes courses make excellent activities for families, teams and groups of co-workers. Not only can consumers enjoy a fun outing together, but they can also grow and practice important life skills.
- Active leisure: Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate or vigorous activity experience health benefits. Enjoyable and variable physical activity is also essential for kids age six through 17. It sounds simple to incorporate some form of movement into your day, but it can be surprisingly difficult to fit physical activity into a busy schedule. Visiting a ropes course is an excellent way for adults and kids to unwind while completing vital physical activity.
To experience the advantages ropes courses offer for both owners and customers, it’s essential to start your business with knowledge and foresight.
How to Get Your Ropes Course Started
The process of building a ropes course involves detailed planning, funding and construction. Here are some tips for navigating the process during each phase.
A specific business plan is one of the most valuable components when it comes to the success of a ropes course. A business plan helps you think through key elements of your business as well as to attain funding or business partners.
Before writing your business plan, think about the best location for your ropes course. Some elements to consider when choosing location are:
- Minimum wage laws
- Property values
- Business insurance rates
- State and local taxes
- State and local government incentives
- Utility costs
- Government licenses and fees
In addition to location, browse ropes course equipment to get a sense of the type you want to install and what kind of budget is needed.
When you’re ready to write a business plan, include the following:
- Executive summary: Use this section to develop your ropes course structure, mission statement and to deliver basic information about the leadership and employment plan.
- Company description: Describe the purpose your ropes course fulfills and the competitive advantage it offers.
- Market analysis: Research demographics in your area to highlight your target audience and any competitors.
- Organization and management: Determine the legal structure of your business, whether you intend to incorporate, form a partnership, have a sole proprietorship, or file as an LLC.
- Marketing and sales: Establish a strategy to promote your ropes course within your community and beyond.
- Funding request: Explain your start-up funding requirements and goals, including costs for ropes equipment, facilities, construction, utilities and employees. If asking for loans, include a plan for paying off any debt.
- Financial projections: Estimate quarterly profits to show that your ropes course is a worthwhile, economically sustainable investment.
Funding options for your ropes course will vary based on your plans and personal assets. Start by compiling a budget that is as comprehensive as possible. Think about start-up costs, training costs, operating costs and maintenance costs to ensure your budget covers all of your facility’s needs. Some ways to fund your business include:
- Self-funding: If you’ve got the money, you can use your own resources to support your business. The benefit of self-funding is that you have total control over your ropes course. But you also assume the total risk for the business. Filing as an LLC can help shield you from personal legal responsibility if you self-fund and are sued.
- Investors: You can typically secure venture capital from investors in exchange for equity in your ropes course business. This protects your personal finances but involves giving up a portion of control and ownership.
- Small business loan: A small business loan enables you to retain complete ownership of your ropes course without investing your personal funds upfront. When pursuing this funding method, it is helpful to have a detailed business plan with financial projections to help a lender evaluate your loan request.
Carefully consider different funding methods to evaluate your options for successfully building and sustaining your ropes course. Select an option that fits your plan and helps your course thrive long-term.
After you’ve laid the groundwork for your ropes course, you can initiate the construction phase. To help understand how to build your high ropes course, talk with your equipment provider and construction contractors. While constructing your course according to your plan specifications is important, ensuring your facility’s safety and compliance should be a high priority.
Organizations like the Association for Challenge Course Technology and the Professional Ropes Course Association help promote and develop safety standards. Becoming an accredited ropes course can help assure your customers you are committed to their fun and safety. Regardless, make sure your ropes course complies with all state and local building codes and regulations.
While the course is constructed, take time to promote your new business through advertising. Build a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the facility so that when you open, you’ll have a host of eager customers ready to try out the course.
Ropes Course Profitability
What business owners and investors want to know is that their venture will thrive and produce a profit. In 2018, adventure park revenue and operating expenses showed a 25% average profit margin.
Out of several different adventure park types — including zip lines, aerial adventures and ground-based experiential courses — ropes courses saw the highest revenue per visitor. The average ropes course had $59 in operating expenses and $135 in revenue per visitor.
Though data supports an eager customer base and sustainable business model, running a ropes course can present challenges. Important obstacles to address include:
- Initial capital investment: Starting a ropes course requires a significant amount of upfront capital. Purchasing equipment and land, hiring and training workers, and facilitating construction can quickly add up. However, there are a variety of funding opportunities available. Whether you work with investors, take out a loan or hold a community-wide fundraiser, you have options to mitigate the cost.
- Course maintenance: Keeping your ropes course well-maintained is critical for patron safety. It may be a costly and unavoidable expense to have the equipment serviced yearly. To keep maintenance costs to a minimum, shop for high-quality course equipment. Investing in durable equipment may reduce long-term maintenance costs and deliver a higher return on investment.
- Appropriate demographic: The average rope course’s ticket price is more expensive than a movie ticket or restaurant meal. For this reason, your customer base will likely be individuals with disposable income. Establish economic profiles for your consumer base and ensure your location and prices will cater to that demographic.
In addition to profitability, it’s important to consider the different types of ropes courses and their benefits to certain audiences.
Types of Ropes Courses
Whether indoor or outdoor, ropes courses come in a belayed or non-belayed format. Each type of high ropes course equipment has specific benefits and advantages.
A belayed high ropes course allows visitors to move around the course while wearing a harness that attaches to a belay system. Some of the characteristics of a belayed course include:
- Increased challenge level: Because users are strapped into a harness, the ropes course can extend to great heights and incorporate challenging obstacles. These elements add difficulty and encourage visitors to work together to conquer the course.
- Older target audience: The harnesses and challenging obstacles make belayed courses ideal for adult visitors. A belayed facility may attract adult siblings, groups of co-workers and friend groups.
- Thrill and skill: A belay system offers both safety and the ability to climb to thrilling heights. This element attracts adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers who want something different than the average amusement park.
- Equipment and training: A key difference in belayed courses is that they often require more trained staff members and equipment. You’ll need to account for staff safety training, extra staff members, and equipment like harnesses and helmets for a belayed course.
A non-belayed ropes course enables visitors to move around the course without the need to wear a harness. Some of the characteristics of a non-belayed course include:
- Moderate challenge level: Because a non-belayed structure doesn’t require a harness to move around safely, visitors can enjoy a fun experience without high challenge levels. This option allows you to incorporate exciting obstacles without the need for additional equipment.
- Younger target audience: Without the need for harnesses, non-belayed facilities appeal to a younger, family-oriented audience. Parents can bring their kids to non-belayed courses to experience exciting, age-appropriate play. This type of facility may be a popular choice for birthday party or school events.
- Laid-back and fun: Non-belayed systems balance moderate challenges with laid-back fun. These courses feature a more relaxed, play-oriented atmosphere.
Whichever ropes course type you choose, be sure to implement a structure the aligns with your target audience’s needs. Many equipment manufacturers can customize belayed or non-belayed courses to fit your specific needs and ensure there is something valuable for all visitors and skill levels.
Innovative High Ropes Equipment for Your Facility
In addition to a quality plan and research, an essential element of your ropes course is top-notch equipment. Whether you’re looking for belayed or non-belayed equipment, Soft Play® has durable products to serve a wide range of difficulty levels. We construct adventure equipment with premium materials that are built to last for years, so you can lower operating and maintenance costs. We even offer modular systems so you can select the size and configuration that works for you today and add on as your business grows.
With over 30 years of experience, Soft Play has the knowledge and diversity to design practical, safe and unique structures for any facility. Schedule a free design consultation to speak with an expert and select the best equipment possible.
To learn more about how Soft Play equipment can transform your ropes course, contact a Soft Play representative today!