Entrepreneur: Lee Guilbeau and Robb Antrobus
Photography by Brian Baiamonte
COMPANY Uptown Climbing
WHAT THEY DO Indoor rock climbing, fitness and yoga classes
ADDRESS 10505 Coursey Boulevard
NEXT GOALS Develop additional programing and events
Robb Antrobus took up rock climbing as a hobby early in his career with advisory services firm KPMG. By 2014, he’d had enough the corporate ladder and—while discussing his situation with a friend over a beer—saw an opportunity to use his growing passion for climbing as a catalyst for a entirely new career. Later that year, Antrobus attended the Climbing Wall Association’s industry summit, where he met his future business partner and fellow Catholic High alumni, Lee Guilbeau. Along with having managed BREC’s climbing tower for six years, Guilbeau had worked in Baton Rouge for years in the personal training and corporate wellness field. The two decided to go into business together, and in September they opened Uptown Climbing on Coursey Boulevard, Baton Rouge’s first indoor climbing gym and the state’s largest.
In December of 2014, Antrobus moved from California back to his hometown of Baton Rouge to pursue the climbing venture with Guilbeau. “I hadn’t pondered owning my own business until the stress of my last job ground me down.” Meanwhile, with a kinesiology degree from LSU, Guilbeau was pursuing his fitness career but didn’t want to own a traditional health club. For much of the last decade, Guilbeau built on his climbing expertise and tapped into his passion for cultivating Baton Rouge’s climbing community. The two joined forces at the end of 2014 and spent the next three years scouting, planning, designing and constructing the state-of-the-art space from the ground up.
LEARNING THE ROPES
Throughout their first six months in business, the duo has been focused on the slow and strategic growth of the city’s climbing community. Antrobus describes climbers as a “welcoming group” and says that, so far, Baton Rouge has embraced the new gym. Uptown Climbing offers a variety of training programs to make the sport attainable to climbers of all levels. As Guilbeau says, “it’s something where you can go anywhere in the world to practice and have a common language with other climbers,” noting the sport is set to make its Olympic debut in 2020. They also pride themselves on keeping the climbing routes, the path by which a climber reaches the top of the wall, new and exciting.
With a growing team of about 25 employees—who work alongside Cooper, the “gym dog”—Uptown Climbing is buzzing seven days a week and boasts a 90-foot-long bouldering wall, 60 rope stations, a speed wall and sport climbing, in addition to offering yoga, acro yoga, aerial yoga and aerial silks classes to the community. The 13,000-square-foot space also features a member-only fitness room, showers, and party rooms with kitchenettes. “There is space to reach an entire range of ages and demographics,” Guilbeau says. In the coming months, they hope to reach out to schools and the disabled community, develop competitive teams, host events like movie nights and continue growing the climbing community through new programs and trainings.