You have probably heard the saying, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” People usually use the saying in regards to physical appearance. However, it can also be applied to your recreation facilities. If you have outstanding facilities, flaunt them. And that is precisely what the University of California Riverside does.
When it comes to the aquatic facilities, not only do they offer the expected – intramural sports, swim lessons, lap swim, group exercise and much more. The department of recreation also hosts numerous events including BBQ’s, Luau’s, Dive-In-Movies, banquets, sand castle contests and much more.
Frances Caron, the assistant director of recreation, highlights that various ways the department encourages students, faculty and staff to come and enjoy all the aquatic facility has to offer.
What types of aquatics events are offered at UC Riverside?
Caron: We do unlimited special events. It is probably the biggest thing we do in this department. We host a BBQ for all of our Greek life, every sorority and fraternity on campus, which is about 500 to 700 people. We do a welcome back pool party where we team up with the campus and we bring out a mobile rock wall, offer free food, inflatable in the pool, temporary tattoo artists and basically have a giant pool party. We have about 1,500 people that come out for that event. We also do a couple of family oriented events for the families on campus. For example, on Halloween we did a pumpkin swim. We had a floating pumpkin patch, so kids could come and swim around with all the pumpkins in the pool, get candy and have a good time. We do it all.
What events are most popular with students?
Caron: We do cardboard boat races, both with students and staff. When we do it with our staff, they come for the day and it is usually part of a training. They are broken into teams and set a big pile of cardboard out. They have one pair of scissors, one role of duct tape and one plastic drop cloth. They have one hour to build a boat just using those supplies. Then they have to race the boat across the pool. Usually we do it so everyone gets some kind of metal. We have a Gilligans award for the team whose boat sinks first. Then if we do it with students on campus, it is the same concept but they build the boat and drop it off the day before. We review the boats to make sure they followed all of the guidelines and then they race the next day. We try to do this once a quarter.
What are some of the biggest challenges when planning programming?
Caron: Our biggest challenge is time. We are open from 6am to midnight and we have staff here as early as 5:30am. It seems like from 6am to midnight there is something going on. So our biggest challenges are: Who is staffing the facility? How are we staffing? Who is going to do what? How are we not going to be exhausted after every event? Especially at the beginning of the school year it is back-to-back events for weeks straight. The hardest part for us is the amount of time because we also have the facility and then we have the special events and then we have programs, so those three things take up so much time fitting everything in. How do we fit in our swim lessons when we have aqua Zumba going on? It is all about timing and scheduling.
What advice would you give other recreation professionals about running events?
Caron: Think outside the box. We always try to think outside the box from start to finish. How can we get the students involved? How can we have the students supervise or help with activities? How are we going to get all the students to come to each event? For example, the cardboard boat races required thinking outside the box. When we first introduced it, everyone thought we were crazy, but then when everyone saw it, they thought it was amazing. Never say no to something too quickly.