At Florida State University (FSU), the campus rec department found a unique way for students to “climb to new heights” by hosting a crate stacking event.
Crate stacking can be offered by utilizing a climbing wall — since the rope system will already be in place — or it can be built in a gym from the rafters, as FSU did with the same anchors they use for outdoor climbing.
So what is crate stacking? “They will start with the one crate on the ground and we usually let them stack two more while they’re standing on the floor, and then on their fourth crate, our rule is they now have to be off the ground,” explained Sean Wilkinson, the challenge course coordinator at FSU. “That’s usually when their feet start going in the handles of the crates and they start ascending as they’re stacking.”
In terms of supplies, Wilkinson finds it depends on how many people you’re expecting, but starting out with 60 crates is suggested, in order to accommodate two to three different stations at a time. FSU went through Grainger, a company from whom they purchase most of their equipment, to obtain industrial-grade milk crates.
“You’ll also need three climbing ropes — one for each station — harnesses and helmets,” Wilkinson described. “You’ll need quite a few helmets for not only the people participating, but also the person belaying or handing crates, as well as anyone in the designated fall zone — everyone wears a helmet.”
Because safety is an important aspect to this adventurous activity, FSU also worked with their risk management team to construct a waiver that was a hybrid of the one they use for their climbing wall and for special events. The key was in using the same terminology that was already approved through risk management.
“Another thing we had to do is buy some industrial tarps we use when we have large tabling events on our courts,” said Kate Blosser, FSU’s assistant director of marketing and special events. “We put them out for crate stacking too, because when they come down, they crash and it’s loud.”
Because the visual of crate stacking itself is appealing, marketing for this event was as simple as handing out flyers on campus. Once the event started, the awe and sound of the crates continued to bring in more interested candidates, as well as the nontraditional audience.
“The kind of student who is coming out to stack milk crates from a flyer they found in the library is different from the student who comes out for pickup basketball,” elaborated Blosser. “When we set this up, we set up secondary things for them to get information about other events going on in our outdoor facilities. They could pick up a schedule for outdoor pursuits, we gave them T-shirts — we were treating the people who came to crate stacking like they were freshman and knew nothing about us.”
FSU already has another crate stacking event in the works, and is even considering a competition series. Once you have the supplies and the audience, the possibilities are endless. “It’s something different,” said Wilkinson. “I think a lot of the time, that’s what pulls in this small percentage we don’t normally get with our more traditional programs, and it’s nice to see new faces and see them look around the rec and say, ‘Oh, this is what it looks like in here.’”
Photos courtesy of Florida State University