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College & University Fitness Centers

The Centerpiece for Recruitment and Retention
In their quest to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack, more and more colleges and universities are investing in campus fitness centers. The reason for this trend appears to be that college administrators are listening more closely to what their respective student bodies (both current and potential) have to say.

According to the annual survey performed by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), recreational sports programs and activities ranked number five (out of a possible 21 determinants) in judging overall satisfaction with a student’s current university AND in deciding which universities to attend in the future -- ranking above such activities as internships, student clubs and entertainment.

Universities now recognize the key part recreation and fitness play in the lives of college students, and as a result having state-of-the art facilities is becoming a bigger focus in recruitment and retention efforts.

“If you build it, they will come,” says John Murray, president of Advantage Sports and Fitness, who has installed more than 80 university fitness centers during his career. “Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen fitness centers go from being an afterthought with administrators to being a top priority.”

What’s driving that change, says Murray, is intense competition to recruit students.
And the evidence bears Murray’s statement out. Between 2004 and 2010, a total of 333 U.S. colleges and universities are planning to build a new, on-campus fitness facility or upgrade an existing one. Together, those 333 schools have a total enrollment of 3.8 million students, with 2.85 million students participating in campus recreational sports programs.

And as an example of how those numbers play out in a particular school, Penn State, which just upgraded its on-campus facility in 2006, has 21,400 active student members in its fitness facility – out of a possible 42 thousand students. That’s 51 percent of the student body actively using the rec and fitness center!

But fitness centers are not the sole purview of large schools like Penn State.

Located in New Rochelle, NY, Iona College boasts a student body of roughly 3,100 students. Challenged for funding, but understanding the importance of a center, Iona took an inclusive approach to building the Hynes Athletics Center in 2005. The college combined alumni contributions with income from the athletics department to create a facility that houses a 7,800 square-foot multipurpose recreation area and a 2,800 square-foot cardiovascular center. It serves the athletic department’s training needs, as well as the overall student body’s fitness needs.

And the investment has paid off. According to Matt Glovaski, assistant director of athletics, recreation and intramurals at Iona, the recreation and athletics facility has become the centerpiece of the campus.

“We are really proud of the changes that have occurred since the opening of the facility, and I have seen firsthand the important role that recreation and fitness play in college life,” says Glovaski.


Information for this article came from these additional sources:

The Value of Recreational Sports in Higher Education, 2004 by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association

Under One Roof;, Jennipher Shaver, Aug 1, 2006.

College and University Rec Centers Keep Up with the Jonses, Jennipher Shaver, Jan. 2006.

1 Source: The Value of Recreational Sports in Higher Education, 2004 by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association
2 Source: The Value of Recreational Sports in Higher Education, 2004 by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association