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University Recreation Centers Beat the Summer Heat, Decreased Attendance with Increased Programming

As students head home for the summer and temperatures continue to rise, university recreation centers often face lower attendance numbers, even though some students and faculty stick around for the summer trimester. So, as campus life slows, I wondered if some university rec centers were overcoming the summer slump and keeping their facilities thriving. A review of some news stories showed that some university rec centers are doing just that.

Students and locals are flocking to the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City this summer. Kim Jamriska, facility coordinator at the recreation center, told The Daily Iowan that the center has between 2,000 to 3,000 visits each day during the summer.

"Members like to come and workout when it's hot outside," she told the newspaper. "We especially see a lot of families and even camps that come to use the indoor facilities."

This kind of attendance isn't unheard of on the Iowa City campus. Attendance has increased at the center during the past year, and it remained relatively good last summer. The facility recorded 70,000 visits in May 2011 and roughly 79,000 in May 2012. Center administrators expect good attendance for the rest of the summer, considering June 2011 had more than 62,000 visits and July 2011 had more than 52,000 visits.

The University of Texas in El Paso credits its steady summer attendance to special deals for classes and practical rates for students taking the summer off. The staff encourages members to try out classes such as weight training and conditioning, and body sculpting for free during the first week in June.

“Our summer numbers continue to increase,” Norma Saavedra, center fitness coordinator, told UTEP News. “I'm happy to see the popularity of this place. We work to instill the concept of a healthy lifestyle, and that is an ongoing effort.”

Summer fitness program specials – $25 for the first class and $15 for additional programs – entice returning and new members to try something new. A High Ropes challenge course is also attracting visitors. The center booked 12 groups from on and off campus to use the challenge course during the first two weeks of June. More than a dozen UTEP students recently underwent intense safety training to be certified as managers of the course, which is outside the recreation center.

Kim Keeton-Pettit, the coordinator of the Outdoor Adventure Programs, supervised the ropes training sessions and is finalizing the schedule for outdoor trips that will start in September, including a backpack trip to the Gila National Forest and excursions to Carlsbad Caverns and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October.

Visits dropped from 100,000 in the busy months of January and February to 25,000 in the first summer month of May at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at Ball State University, Muncie, IN. Students not enrolled for the summer semester who want to use the rec center must pay a $90 fee. Instead of doing so, many are using the older Ball Gymnasium, which is free.

"We know our traffic is going to be down a little bit, and we believe in this university and utilizing our resources efficiently," Adamowicz told Club Industry.

To keep the newer facility in use during the summer, recreation center focuses on other programs, such as day camps and swimming lessons, directed toward university employees and their families.

"Ball State values our employees, so we want to have comprehensive programming for them as well," Adamowicz says. "To do that, you also have to have family offerings. We have been doing that for close to 20 years now."

So what is your university rec center doing to keep busy during the summer months? Share your summer programming with us.

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