Lessons In Equipment Selection

equipment selection

A standard component of any campus recreation department’s mission is to provide health and fitness opportunities for the university community that promote lifelong wellness habits. This can be done through a variety of tactics, including intramural and club sports, outdoor adventure, group exercise, personal training and aquatics.

An integral part of this fitness offering is equipment. Your cardio and strength equipment selection plays a key role in student satisfaction with your facility; therefore equipment buying decisions also require extensive planning. Several factors must be taken into consideration such a budgets, warranties, serviceability, technology, user friendliness, student feedback and much more. To help make your equipment buying processes a little smoother, a few recreation professionals answer key questions about their equipment selection process.  

Peter Schaack, Director of Facility Operations at the University of Texas Austin 

Q: How often do you buy or replace equipment? “We attempt to replace about 20 percent of our cardio equipment annually. This allows us to maintain equipment to around 5 years of age, most of which stay within warranty periods around 4 years. This plan allows us to stay current with the most updated equipment and trends, while also allowing us to adapt to the changing student needs and preferences. Strength has a much longer lifespan, and we have replaced all of our strength equipment through various projects within the last 3 years. We anticipate a 10 to 15-year lifespan on the new strength equipment, with replacement as necessary.”

Q: What do you look for when choosing new equipment?  “We look at a combination of quality, durability, updated features, previous relationship with the vendor and overall value. We also try to offer a variety of equipment and manufacturers for a diverse university community.”

Q: If a piece of equipment breaks, what is the maintenance process like? “This is dependent on the specific manufacturer for a particular piece and its warranty status. We contract out with a third party for preventative maintenance on all equipment, and also for repairs on out-of-warranty equipment. Equipment repairs that are still under parts and labor warranty are sent to their respective manufacturer’s technicians.”

Q: What are the most popular pieces of equipment in the recreation center? “UT Austin is a very diverse community. Therefore, the popularity of equipment is also diverse, depending on familiarity with equipment, fitness levels and gender, to name a few. Fifteen to 20 years ago there was a very distinct line in the preference of equipment between males and females, with males preferring free weights with some pin select, and females preferring cardio equipment with some pin select. Today those lines are much less distinct, with our female population being much more active with strength training and males taking advantage of more cardio training. Overall, our pin select lines seem to be the most popular pieces for strength training and cross trainers such as the Precor EFX’s and AMTs, along with treadmills like the Matrix T7XE for cardio training — though all of our equipment is very heavily utilized.”  

equipment selection

Brianne Rowh, Assistant Director of Fitness at the University of Maryland

Q: How often do you buy or replace equipment? “We typically do a partial cardio equipment replacement each purchasing year, and at least one piece of strength equipment each year. We are currently in the process of updating our free weight stock in three weight rooms and have a 3-year phased purchasing plan.”

Q: What do you look for when choosing new equipment? “We look for a three-year warranty typically and a company that is easy to communicate with, that will service equipment quickly. We also look for a company that has equipment in similar collegiate recreation centers of our size, and then call for references. We like to say that our students can and will break even the indestructible, so we need to know how efficiently it’s going to get fixed.”

Q: What are the most popular pieces of equipment right now? “Ellipticals and treadmills are typically popular pieces of equipment for us. Surprisingly, the Stepmill has resurrected itself as a preferred form of cardio — what’s old is new again. In the strength world, basic barbell strength — platforms, bars, benches and racks — remain highly popular. We continue to see a growing number of students focusing on the big four lifts versus using selectorized pieces.”

Q: Do you find that newer pieces of equipment are starting to incorporate more technology? “Despite newer pieces engaging more technology, many of our students prefer using personal smart phones and tuning out versus tuning in.”  

equipment selection

Dave DeAngelo, Senior Associate Director of Facilities at The Ohio State University

Q:  What do you look for when choosing new equipment? Or when deciding to partner with an equipment company? “For us, first and foremost, is the quality and durability of the equipment. We determine that by a number of factors: history, having our maintenance team look at pieces before we buy them and user feedback. I don’t worry too much about cost. I am more concerned with providing equipment that our users will enjoy and will withstand the rigors of our use. Another important factor to consider is the relationship with the manufacturer’s rep and/or the dealer. Relationships are important, and we like to work with folks that look at us as partners and vice versa.”

Q: If a piece of equipment breaks, what is the maintenance process like? “We have five full-time people in-house that can all contribute to fitness equipment repair. Officially 1.5 FTE are dedicated to it, but others chip in as well. We fix 99 percent of our issues in-house.”

Q: Do you find that newer pieces of equipment are starting to incorporate more technology? “Yes. A small example is a new building we are opening on North Campus. This new part of campus is only using IPTV to deliver cable to the area. Each one of our vendors has a different process for how this needs to be set up. This has been a challenge for sure.”

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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