A 137-year-old church in Saint John, N.B., was going to be turned into a climbing gym called Climb 1884. In 2021, David and Mary-Gwen Alston bought the Church of St. John the Baptist and were hoping to convert it, keeping as much of the stained-glass windows and Gothic trim as they could.
Over the past few months, they’ve renovated parts of the structure and said they’ve saved it, but ultimately can’t build a gym in it due to the age of the building. It would’ve become one of the unique climbing gyms in Canada, with old architecture and an ornate interior.
“Most ropes climbing gyms are built in steel constructed warehouses with concrete floors and for good reason,” said the team at Climb 1884. “The most cost effective way to build climbing walls is directly on concrete pads while using the steel beams in the walls and ceiling to support the walls. Our location unfortunately has none of these attributes and thus we had come up with designs to overcompensate for this. Using a complex set of engineering approaches the plan had us essentially building a complex concrete and steel building structure inside the church.
“Unfortunately this essentially offset any of the cost advantages, and then some, of utilizing the church structure in the first place. No matter how many variations we looked it the constant requirement for all this extra complexity, and the costs associated with it, made the business case for this location not work.”
The owners will be putting the building back up for sale in June and said they’re proud of the role they played in saving it. “This 138 year old structure is now moving forward with a new roof, repointed and rebuilt brickwork, new windows to replace damaged ones in the basement and vestry and a new heating system,” they said.
The Alstons said that if the right building becomes available that they might consider buying it to build a different new gym.