What used to be a healthy beverage and snack bar has now transformed into one of the most original ideas implemented by a recreation center — a fitness showcase room. In 2014, the University of Missouri’s MizzouRec decided to use the 600-square-foot elevated space that lies in the middle of the “Jungle Gym” as a fitness showcase. The Fitness Showcase is specifically designed to debut and test pre-production pieces, as well as beta testing. Along with being elevated around 18 to 22 inches for maximum visibility, the dynamic space contains footlights to highlight the stage-like opening.
The innovative idea came to Diane Dahlmann, the executive director at MizzouRec, after noticing MizzouRec was experiencing a population bulge. Dahlmann wanted to think of something that would enhance the experience for students to make it engaging and unique, along with figuring out a concept that would reflect the No. 1 collegiate recreation facility in the nation.
Dahlmann began the brainstorming process by challenging the MizzouRec team to consider how the students workout, and how the fitness experience could be enhanced. “It was a problem-solving exercise in the most basic sense,” said Dahlmann. “After deconstructing the fitness experience as it was defined at that time, a new model emerged that provided our students with a stronger opportunity to participate and shape their experience.”
That’s when the idea of showcasing equipment came about.
“I said, here’s my idea … what if we use this dedicated space, call it the Fitness Showcase, and make it look like a show,” Dahlmann explained. “We have this elevated space, what if you put the new equipment front and center? You know when you get a new sweater, you want to wear it right away. You don’t put it in the bottom of the drawer and say you’ll get to it … so why don’t we do that with our equipment?”
Then, the lightbulb went off in Dahlmann’s head: Maybe they don’t have to do it alone. “Maybe we should talk to the people who are the vendors of our equipment and maybe we can do some really interesting things with them in terms of programming the space beyond just drop-in recreation,” she added.
Dahlmann decided the next step was to reach out to the distributor MizzouRec had a long relationship with — OrthoTech, and propose an idea. She asked the vendor if they could have certain pieces of equipment for 30, 60 or 90 days as a beta test, in hopes the relationship would be mutually beneficial.
The equipment changes every one to two semesters on average, depending on the fitness industry and the trade show calendar. Currently, CORE Health & Fitness is being showcased. Throughout the years the showcase room has had everything from stationary bikes, Octane’s Zero Runner, Lateral X, Pro4700 and the XT ONE, Star Trac’s Treadclimber, HIITMill X, AirFit UB and FreeMotion’s Incline trainer. If a piece of equipment that is tested works out well, MizzouRec considers putting it in their line-up when they do their equipment rotation.
The Fitness Showcase provides a mutually beneficial relationship to both MizzouRec and the partners. “When you take on a partner, it’s not a gimme or a freebie, and I think a lot of times people in the field don’t understand that,” added Dahlmann. “It’s a partnership. That means, we have something of value to provide to our partners, and they have something of value to give us.”
MizzouRec’s partners are: CORE/Star Trac, Octane Fitness, FreeMotion, OrthoTech and MU Health Care.
“Achieving excellence requires diligence and innovation, and that’s why MizzouRec carries such enthusiasm into fostering new partnerships,” said Dahlmann. “Our partners are pioneering the new age of the health and fitness industry, and we’re helping them do that. In coupling their leading edge with ours, we’ve been able to enhance the fitness experience for our members in a fresh and inventive way.”
The partners ask for both direct and indirect feedback from students, faculty and staff testing the equipment. First-hand feedback is obtained through organized events, such as fitness challenges that MizzouRec co-hosts with their partners. Indirect feedback comes from assessments on specific pieces of equipment.
After implementing the program, MizzouRec hired a dedicated fitness equipment manager who specializes in risk management and speaks directly to the engineers and designers of the equipment.
Dahlmann said students are randomly selected for feedback. If they choose to participate they evaluate the equipment on criteria such as: user-friendly, easy to navigate, the level of variety the equipment may provide as a workout and the level of difficulty.
“I also think it’s something that works well because we’re helping our students understand which equipment is best suited and equipped for their needs, so it’s really building consumer skills as well,” explained Dahlmann.
According to Dahlmann, so far the experience has been wonderful and students absolutely love the concept. “They have provided great feedback to our partners while enjoying the opportunity to utilize new equipment,” she said. “It’s a giant win-win, and a great value-added experience for our students and our partners.”