It’s an hour from Lakeland either way to a rock-climbing gym, and probably another ten hours north to find an authentic outdoor climbing experience! There’s been plenty of talk around Lakeland the past few years about bringing the adventure sport into the city, and many locals love the idea. Now, Ben Arnold from Boulder Lakeland is taking all the necessary steps to make it happen.
Bouldering is a unique type of rock-climbing gym. The wall is about nine-to-thirteen feet high, and is built out length-wise as long as the gym chooses. Climbers don’t have to be harnessed in, and losing your grip means you’ll just fall onto the thick gymnastic padding below the wall. Bouldering is a great way to get introduced to the sport, work on specific moves, or take the kids to blow off some energy.
We sat down with Ben Arnold to hear about Boulder Lakeland and his new journey as an entrepreneur.
Tell us your story. Where are you from, and what have you done before this?
“My father was in the Army. I moved around for my entire life. When I was in high school in Germany, my dad was deployed to Iraq, and my sister was at Southeastern University. Everyone was spread out! Since family is so important, I decided to go to SEU with my sister, and I’ve remained in Lakeland ever since.
I’ve worked at Black & Brew, Fit Niche, a church worship team, and now Travis Technical College. I’ve been married seven years, and we have three kids in a wonderful home near the Dixieland area. It feels like all throughout my life I’ve been adapting and changing, so it’s fitting that we’re moving into a new venture now.”
Why rock climbing? What does the sport mean to you?
“I’ve been rock climbing since high school. My youth group leader would take us climbing, and I fell in love with the sport. It’s problem solving with kinesthetics: learning through physical movement. It feel like a sport you’re doing solo, but you’re really not alone. Your team is on the ground making suggestions on routes, helping you plan a tough grab, or yelling encouragement as they hang onto the belay rope.”
Why Lakeland? What kept you in this community?
“I’ve always loved Lakeland because it feels like such a progressive small town. I’m a pretty big runner, so my favorite part of Lakeland is jogging downtown, passing all the businesses, looping the lake, and bumping into friends along the way. You get to bask in all Lakeland has to offer. I really think the heart of all our different communities here meet in downtown.”
When did you decide to take the entrepreneur route, and what are some of the wins or challenges along the way?
“My wife and I have been talking about this bouldering idea on and off for several years. Usually, it’s only comments like, ‘Wouldn’t this be a fun idea? Could you imagine if we could make a living out of this?’ Just this past summer, we decided we should go for it.
We picked a funny time to start. We recently sold a house and bought a new one, so that’s a constantly source of stress as we keep striving to move forward. I’ve also always been a “go with the flow” personality, and I’m learning that just doesn’t work in entrepreneurship. It’s been a welcome challenge to start shifting into the go-getter mentality.
As far as wins, we’ve got the trailer to build our first mobile setup and increase buzz as we ramp up. We’ve meet with the Chamber of Commerce, and we’re going to be in a big event this November. We’re talking with school boards across the county to become a part of the physical education program, and we’re actively looking for the perfect space to call home for our gym!”
What are the long term and short term goals for Boulder Lakeland? What can we all look forward to?
“Well, we are starting with a mobile bouldering wall. 15 kids can climb on the mobile wall at one time, so it’s going to be great for events, parties, and more. In a year, we want to be ready for the buildout stage of the full gym.
Our bouldering gym is going to have some cool features to keep people engaged. We can re-paint the walls like castles or cartoon landscapes for the kids, and the adult side might be art pieces or unique local landmarks. We’re also going to incorporate some awesome technology, like the pong game you can play on a boulder wall!
We hope to see you all downtown, and you’ll be seeing more updates about Boulder Lakeland soon!”
Thanks for your time, Ben.
In a way, entrepreneurship and rock climbing are similar. You need to reach out of your comfort zone, pivot with new challenges, and keep moving up. You might fall, and hopefully you’ve got a great support system to catch you and encourage you to get back on the wall. We wish all the best for Boulder Lakeland here at Baron Realty, and look forward to the progress our city is making together towards health, adventure, and connection.
To connect with Boulder Lakeland for partnership opportunities, contact them here.