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Family Entertainment Centers have an unusual challenge when it comes to designing climbing walls. For one thing, their core user base is almost entirely made up of kids and early teens, many of whom have never climbed before. As an additional challenge, the sheer quantity of users wanting to get on the climbing wall is often much greater than in a traditional gym setting. 

As an FEC owner or operator, how can you maximize fun and excitement for such a young and inexperienced user group, while also maintaining a safe environment and staying financially viable? 

For many FECs, the answer to this question is the TRUBLUE Auto Belay. 

Over the last several years, TRUBLUE has built a reputation as the most trusted name in gym climbing. Fortunately, the best-in-class technology that makes TRUBLUE a favorite training tool for experienced rock climbers, also makes it uniquely suited for kids and early teens at Family Entertainment Centers – though not always for the same reasons.

Protection against the unexpected

Kids are unpredictable. Anyone who has ever set foot in an FEC knows that, given the space and the freedom to play, things can quickly get out of hand. That screaming, scurrying, ecstatic chaos is part of the fun of going to an FEC... unless, of course, it’s your job to keep everyone safe. It's a difficult balancing act. What can you do to maximize fun, while also ensuring the highest possible safety standards? 

One answer would be to increase staffing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a professional accountant to realize the financial drawbacks to this strategy – not to mention the additional hiring processes, paperwork, and training requirements. 

By installing TRUBLUE Auto Belays, a small staff can manage several climbers at once, regardless of the experience, ability, or chaos level of those climbers. And, as any seasoned FEC operator will tell you, that chaos level can reach incredible heights.  

One of the reasons for this is that, for many young climbers, coming down is just as exciting as going up. The trouble is, you’re never quite sure how they’re going to make the transition. All too often, kids won't so much ease their way back down as they will jump, launch, or hurl themselves from the wall. 

Fortunately, TRUBLUEs are certified to protect against dynamic movements. That means, no matter how, when, or why users decide to start their descent, the patented braking technology inside the TRUBLUE Auto Belay will provide a soft, comfortable catch before lowering them safely back down to the ground. 

Patented magnetic braking technology  

Rather than relying on brake pads -- which wear down over time and are not rated for dynamic movements – TRUBLUE uses magnetic braking to smoothly and reliably control a user’s rate of descent. 

There are several advantages to magnetic braking. Chief among them is that magnetic braking is extremely reliable, even when dealing with heavy weights and high speeds. While TRUBLUE is the only auto belay manufacturer to utilize magnetic braking, the technology is also found in elevators, roller coasters, and high-speed trains. For practical purposes, this magnetic braking system means that TRUBLUEs can run smoother for longer, even with exceptionally high cycle counts. Since they rely on opposing magnetic forces instead of friction, TRUBLUEs have low maintenance requirements. They also don’t use any sacrificial parts, such as brake pads, which need to be regularly replaced. 

Building user confidence, one descent at a time 

One additional benefit of magnetic braking systems, especially where FECs are concerned, is that they are self-regulating. Regardless of the weight of the user, the rate of descent is the same. 

For example, a seven-year-old could begin to lower from the top of the climbing wall at the same time as their parent, and both users would reach the ground at the same time. Especially for new and inexperienced climbers, this consistency can be extremely comforting, and helps to build user confidence. 

Additional tools to ensure safe climbing in FECs

 Beyond core climbing functionality, here are some additional features and accessories that cater to the needs of Family Entertainment Centers. Self Belays 

Especially when working with young and unpredictable climbers, Self Belays are a great tool for providing an additional layer of security and operator control. Unlike a carabiner, with a Self Belay the operator uses a special key to lock the climber’s harness to the auto belay, preventing any accidental releases or clipping errors. Once that user has finished climbing, the operator can then unlock the Self Belay and secure it to the next user. 

No delay belay 

To stay in compliance with third-party safety certifications, all recreational auto belay devices are required to go through a mandatory annual service inspection. For many facilities, this process is extremely inconvenient, causing weeks of downtime and hurting business. 

We developed the one-of-a-kind No Delay Belay program to combat this problem. Instead of mailing your device and then waiting for it to be serviced, with No Delay Belay you receive a newly serviced device before your current one is due for service, thereby eliminating downtime and keeping your FEC running smoothly.

Spin protection 

All approved TRUBLUE connectors (including the Self Belay) are attached to the webbing via a swivel. This allows users to spin, without creating twists or kinks in the webbing line. For FECs, this feature also opens the door to a host of additional possibilities, ranging from balance elements and ropes courses to custom-built attractions.