Working It Out
Student Recreation Complex at Arizona State University in Tempe
By Jessica Royer Ocken
The Student Recreation Complex at Arizona State University had the classic problem for on-campus fitness facilities: too much love.
Opened in 1989, the facility's three large gyms, 14 racquetball courts, squash court, and rooms for circuit training and fitness classes indoors are complemented by a 70-meter heated pool, 5,000-square-foot weight room and basketball courts outdoors. At its busiest, the complex may be visited by as many as 5,000 workout-loving students, faculty, staff and alumni per day—far more than even the most packed commercial gym. In addition to sports clubs, group exercise classes, Pilates, yoga and aquatics classes, the facility hosts a thriving intramural sports program. Intramural matches often keep the center open until 1 or 2 a.m., just to accommodate all the competition junkies. "Students don't like it, but if they want to play, they show up," said Julie Kipper, associate director of programs and marketing for the ASU Student Recreation Complex.
Among the most-used items at the center (during daylight hours) were the 85 cardio machines scattered throughout the building. By 2007, when ASU began considering how to improve the Student Recreation Complex, some of the machines were eight years old—absolutely ancient in terms of exercise equipment technology. "We didn't have a lot in our budget for true replacement," Kipper explained. "So we just did a few here and there. [Many of the machines were] very old and needed constant repair."
Not only was this time-consuming for staff and frustrating for those coming to work out, it also added to the complex's budget woes. "Those [repair] costs couldn't even be estimated each year," Kipper said. "We never knew what would happen." The staff did as many of the repairs as possible themselves and only called a technician when necessary. But even so, "it got to the point that it was just too much for us in terms of the budget and not enough having enough equipment for students," Kipper said.
The rec center staff knew they needed to make a change, so they got creative. "Our department had a reserve account set aside for debt retirement, but it had been earning interest," Kipper explained. They approached the university vice president and asked if some of that interest could be used to replace their decrepit cardio equipment. They received permission and, after an analysis, determined that because of the nature of the funding, a lease situation made more sense than purchasing the equipment outright.
Armed with this information, the staff laid out their goals. The current cardio equipment was an array of makes and models from several manufacturers. They now wanted one brand. "We needed to have easier repairs, plus make it easier for patrons to move from machine to machine, [because the] screens and setup would be similar." In addition, the never-ending repair odyssey that had swamped their maintenance staff and budget for years made an outsourced equipment-maintenance program another essential for their lease agreement.