Embrace the Virtual


Most collegiate recreation departments are committed to providing opportunities for every student on campus. However, achieving full participation is a monumental goal. Most recreation centers often attract about 75 percent of a campus population on average, and then just about 80 percent of that group uses the facilities weekly.

These are strong numbers, but that doesn’t stop recreation departments from trying to find ways to engage new groups of students. Now, given the rapid evolution of technology affecting every corner of society, it’s time for campus recreation departments to embrace a new suite of digital tools to help bring new students through their centers’ doors. Here’s a look at two key digital tools campus recreation leaders should consider:

Embrace Esports

There’s no denying the popularity of esports with projections suggesting it will generate nearly $1.5 billion in revenue via 589 million users annually by the year 2020. If you’re unfamiliar, esports translates to competitive video gaming. Depending on the game, esports pits individuals or teams against one another in tournaments to crown champions. Not surprisingly, esports are most popular with younger generations and those soon to be living on college campuses across the country.

Campus recreation leaders can’t afford to ignore esports. In fact, leading institutions are already investing in technology and creating spaces for esports in their campus rec centers. They recognize the sport’s growing popularity as a means to engage an even greater percentage of the student population.

The first step in bringing esports to your recreation center is investing in technology that supports competitive gaming and the games themselves. Hint: League of Legends is a good place to start. 

However, those who seek to be even more aggressive in luring esports fans can also launch tournaments, form club teams and even seek out rival institutions with which to compete. To be most successful, recreation leaders should view esports less as video games to be played in dorm rooms and more as a new source for intramural and club team competition.

Empower Exergaming

While some students may use video games to compete, others are beginning to use them for physical fitness. Exergaming, an emerging trend growing in popularity, involves technology-driven physical activities like video games that require players to dance or run to compete. These video games move beyond traditional controllers with buttons to wearable controllers, floor mats with sensors and a plethora of other options. Popular titles like iDance, Holofit Rowing and Zombies, Run! allow users to combine passions for video game entertainment and physical exercise.

Introducing technology that supports exergaming can inherently appeal to new students. Beyond being unique and fun, exergames allow students to socialize and they empower choice as users play at their own level, pace and mode of play.


Karl Leabo is a key leader in CannonDesign’s Sports + Recreation practice. He partners with colleges and universities across North America to create dynamic recreation centers that help them engage students and inspire success.

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