An additional $2 million in revenue is generated annually by the programs and services offered at the University of Cincinnati’s rec center. That revenue, said Kim Schmidt, the director of Campus Recreation at the University of Cincinnati, assists in the rec center’s ongoing and always increasing operational needs.
But beyond the generated revenue, Schmidt explained the variety of offerings allows the center to enhance the membership experience. “We provide a large number of fee-based programs and services to help us better meet the varied wants and needs of our diverse membership, while also giving non-members or guests opportunities to experience all that we have to offer,” she said.
From personal training and nutrition coaching, to climbing wall programs and hosting birthday parties, the University of Cincinnati’s additional profit centers seem limitless. “Within reason we wanted the ability to offer something for everyone,” said Schmidt. “While we realized that it wasn’t possible for us to be everything to everyone, we wanted to try.”
The additional programs and services offered at the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Recreation and Wellness Center are also there to support the members. Yvette Kell, the director of Campus Recreation, said the offerings give members additional options and resources. Plus, the pro shop gives members access to items that could help with workouts, or are simply available in case they forgot something.
In fact, Henry Knejfl, the coordinator of membership and guest services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the pro shop in the rec center is there as a complementary offering. “We try to offer products that align with our mission to have healthier lifestyle options for our community, so we just don’t take any product. It has to align with our mission and vision, but it’s really about being convenient and offering the whole package,” explained Knejfl.
Those products are items like socks, rackets for racquetball, protein bars for hungry students and even swim diapers, which are perfect for the rec center’s large swim program. Knejfl said while the pro shop does generate some revenue, it is ultimately more about completing the package of the membership experience at the rec center.
Kell explained they chose to offer their additional programs and services after researching local and industry trends. But, she’s not opposed to listening to those who walk through the center’s doors. “We are not afraid to try something new,” she said. “When a member brings an idea forward, or a request, we are willing to pilot programming or items in order to expand our offerings for the entire membership.
And that goes along with the fact members first need to know what a rec center offers. Kell said marketing and visibility are key in making sure members know what they carry in their pro shop and provide in terms of services.
Staying open to change is important in terms of additional revenue streams, but Schmidt said even the small changes can largely impact a member’s experience. For example, one of the profit centers the rec center at Cincinnati offers is a summer camp. Schmidt said at the end of the day, there would always be a traffic jam when parents came to pick up their children. Counselors would have to find the camper, gather the child’s belongings and then escort them to the parent.
“To expedite the process, we introduced an ‘express pickup’ option where parents can text our hotline with their camper’s name five to 10 minutes before they expect to get to campus, and we would ensure their child is ready when they arrive,” said Schmidt.
The above is one reason why continually evaluating your offering is essential. Schmidt’s rec center staff will also research trends in both the private and university sector. She explained that by looking at how and why a center does what it does, programs and services can evolve to meet the membership need. “The truth is, even today’s ‘best practice’ has a short shelf life, so we need to always be looking for ways to improve the quality of our programs and services,” she said.