We can imagine a vibrant downtown in Battle Creek where people can enjoy time with family and neighbors having fun at interesting restaurants, cool stores, engaging activities, and interesting parks. We can see Battle Rock Climbing Gym being in the middle of that downtown. More importantly, we can see Battle Rock Climbing Gym being an important part of making such a downtown a reality. We see Battle Rock Climbing Gym as a “domino project” that will bring people to downtown Battle Creek so that other businesses will grow around the activity. With the investment and development that has been happening behind the scenes, Battle Rock is closer than ever to reality, but we need help.
Battle Rock Climbing Gym is a project that we at Cereal City Athletics (Tim Bandeen, Emily Bandeen, Charles Elder, and Nikki Elder) have been developing for the last five years. The partnership of our two families allowed us to establish Cereal City Athletics through which we have brought many events to our community. From the Battle Creek Half Marathon & 5K, to the Cereal City Triathlon, the Cereal City Kids Triathlon, the Tinsel Toes 5K, and many others, Cereal City Athletics has been focused on building community in Battle Creek. Our hope has been that starting a climbing gym in Battle Creek will continue to contribute to the group effort that is required to build our community.
Over the years, the task of starting Battle Rock Climbing Gym has changed and grown. The land and building in downtown Battle Creek at 50 West Michigan Ave is the planned location for the gym. Currently, the location is owned by the Calhoun County Land Bank. Battle Rock Climbing Gym is under contract to take ownership of the land and the building once the project is sufficiently underway.
There has been significant investment of time and finances put into Battle Rock Climbing Gym project. Around half a million dollars has been spent. The vast majority of the time and money invested so far is site-specific. Environmental studies, architectural planning, engineering reports, plans from contractors and subcontractors have been gathered all of which has been unique to the location at 50 West Michigan Avenue. There is also approximately another half million dollars of grants and incentives tied to the project that is also site specific which has not been spent and which will be granted after construction has started. In other words, the project cannot be moved to a different location without loss of those previous investments and grants. Also, other locations are not likely to have the same positive impact to our community as what can be found by placing Battle Rock right in the middle of our downtown. We wish that we were already open, but considering the large scope of the project, it is understandable that the planning and investment has taken a lot of time. The COVID pandemic was definitely disruptive, but, despite many hurdles, we are not finished and are moving forward.
Over the years, we have had discussions with multiple people who were potentially interested in being investors in Battle Rock Climbing Gym. As might be expected, important information about the scope of the project had not been fully developed in those early discussions. Since that time, we have moved forward with the personal financial investment that was necessary to understand the scope of the project. We took the necessary steps to continue to move forward. Emily and I have invested over $500,000 in the Battle Rock Climbing Gym project. We established a corporate structure that allowed us to own stock in Battle Rock Climbing Gym. It is by the sale of stock that others will be able to join the project as fellow owners.
Immediately prior to the pandemic, the Battle Rock Climbing Gym was projected to cost around $5.2 million dollars. Within that amount was about $1.0 million of climbing gym equipment and $4.2 million dollars of construction costs. In addition to our personal investment of over $500,000, we have gathered over another $500,000 in grants and gifts. Our plans have been to use a Small Business Administration Loan (SBA) which would allow us to have 10% investment/downpayment in the project to secure the loans needed to get started.
We have applied for grants through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) through the State of Michigan. Our legal counsel was selected specifically for their experience with the MEDC. Unfortunately and despite having excellent legal counsel, we found that the MEDC is fraught with bureaucratic challenges which have made grants from the MEDC unrealistic. The delays from attempting to work with the MEDC provided to us a grant of about $500,000 which did not offset the construction-cost-increases that happened during the MEDC’s lengthly and arduous processes. Those MEDC grants were eventually withdrawn in the onset of the COVID pandemic due to State budgetary concerns. At this time, we do not believe that State grants and the MEDC are a reasonable means by which to supplement the Battle Rock Climbing Gym project. Fortunately and despite the challenges found at the State-level, the City of Battle Creek, Calhoun County, and our local foundations have continued to support Battle Rock.
In order to ensure the success of Battle Rock Climbing Gym, we have consulted in depth with friends/colleagues in the climbing gym industry. One of our goals has been to garner partnerships with existing climbing gym companies from outside of our area. We want to bring existing expertise to this venture so that we can be stronger and better than we would be on our own. We asked those colleagues what it would take for them to partner into Battle Rock. The advice that we were given was that the $4.2 million dollars in loans was too high to cash flow well. Based on that advice, we are looking for an additional $1.5 to $2.0 million in investment. Raising an additional $1.5 to $2.0 million in addition to the $500,000 in capital and $500,000 of grants that we already have will bring us to $2.5 to $3.0 million of total $5.2 million for the project. In other words, we would like to have a “capital stack” of around 50% of the total project costs.
We have a specific task in front of us: we need to raise an additional $1.5 to $2.0 million in order to push the project across the finish line. We are asking for assistance from our neighbors and community members to raise the funds by joining us as fellow owners. We really would like people who want to ensure the long term success of the project as their primary goal. We are planning to make Battle Rock Climbing Gym a successful, independent business. We are not establishing a 501C3. We want owners who are “all-in”. We have “put our money where our mouths are” in order to start this business. We know that there are people and entities who have the means to be able to join us, but we don’t know who they are at this point because many of them go quietly about their personal business. We have done our best to lead by example while knowing that now is the time that we need others to join us. We are willing to share ownership in order to be successful in building Battle Rock Climbing Gym.
We have asked for an extension of our contract with the Calhoun County Land Bank. At this point in the process, we are fully energized and are ready to continue with building Battle Rock Climbing Gym. We would very much like to have discussions with people and entities who would like to share ownership with us in our efforts to move forward. Construction will take around a year to complete. As we are coming out of the pandemic, people can start to see that life can be better again. We would like to move forward within the next few months so that we can open next year.
So, what do we need?
People/parties interested in ownership in Battle Rock Climbing Gym should send us an email at information@CerealCityAthletics.com We would like to open Battle Rock in 2022. We are trying to wrap up the financial preparation part of the project by early December 2021, so we respectfully request that interested parties speak up now.
Any interested parties can also use the "Contact us" field below. Thank you!