What does a Non-Profit Bouldering Gym Look Like?

UNB Rock and Ice

I’m taking a short hiatus from climbing tips to take you to our little utopia in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It’s not often you see a climbing gym not operating as a business, which makes our gym almost one of a kind. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love business gyms, and I think that they benefit a lot from having employees and route setters dedicated to the overall improvement of their business. It’s just cool to see another way to keep a wall up and running. You and I might have different definitions of “cool” though.

As you’ve guessed, we don’t pay any employees. Anyone who does any work for our club does so purely on a volunteer basis. When I think about it, volunteers actually put in quite a bit of work to keep the gym afloat. We operate in two renovated squash courts in the basement of the Lady Beaverbrook Gym at the University of New Brunswick. As a result, we don’t have to pay rent or insurance as we luckily exist within another fitness gym. We are open for 3 hours every evening except for Saturday, with key access during the day IF you are a monitor and on the key list. Monitors choose which shift they would like to work at the beginning of each semester, with 3 monitors scheduled for each night.

A membership is 50$ for the year, and this fee is waved if you’re a volunteer. It’s free your first climb, or at most 5$ for any subsequent visit (3$ to climb and 2$ for a shoe rental if needed). Communal chalk is always available too. Community members unfortunately have to pay another fee to the university for using their facilities as a non-student. This fee is entirely separate from our club, which is why we also charge a small fee (we need to make money somehow!).

Route setting is  a free for all. There are really no guidelines when it comes to this either, although really crappy routes sometimes get taken down or publicly shamed. We actually end up with some really nice routes as a result. Though anyone is welcome to set, it usually comes down to the same hand full of people consistently putting up routes. Bi-annual competitions are also set by members, with volunteers helping strip and wash the holds. We usually make a night out of it with pizza – it’s worth it for the pizza!

As our prices suggest, we don’t make a ton of money but we get by. What do we do with the money? We regularly buy new holds, pay for minor repairs, sponsor the Banff Film Festival World Tour stop in Fredericton, buy climbing gear to rent out to members for no cost, and buy prizes for our competitions to name a few! We also have an annual club trip where our club pays for a portion of our expenses (ie. the camping fee). We elect a new executive counsel every year for our club as well, and they decide where to allocate our funds on top of organizing any club events.

There you have it! I tried to cover as much as I could, but turns out there’s a lot to cover. Basically, UNB Rock and Ice has the look and feel of a regular gym, minus the long hours and appointed route setters. Other differences are really just administrative and don’t matter to the regular climber. Guaranteed you’ll have a good time anyway, and that’s all that matters. 🙂 If you’re ever in the area, come check it out!

Climb on xx


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