If you walk into Louisiana State University’s (LSU) campus rec center, you will see many of the usual hallmarks of a collegiate fitness space.
There are thousands of square feet of cardio and strength equipment, basketball courts, swimming pools, and locker rooms to ensure students can pursue healthy lifestyles.
But recently, LSU University Recreation (UREC) adopted a new, eye-catching strategy to attract more of the student body into the complex.
At the top of the facility’s “social staircase” is an arcade area where several electronic and table games are available for coeds. As it turns out, the new space is continuously drawing students into LSU’s UREC.
History and Features
LSU’s arcade area first opened in August 2021 and is now available nearly 120 hours per week.
Laurie Braden, the executive director of UREC, said the games and space cost an estimated $75,000 to setup. However, the department is already seeing the benefits from the decision.
“[The response has] been positive,” said Braden. “They really like it. I check in with Student Government a few times a year, and the students love we have this.”
The most popular features of the arcade are the multiple pinball and classic video games students can play for free.
There are also several foosball and air hockey tables which are complemented by a handful of bean bag chairs and couches.
“We have numerous ‘80s and ‘90s games like Pac-Man and Mario, and you can pick which one you want to play,” said Braden. “I think there are opportunities to expand upon this. We plan to add two more pinball machines over the course of the next fiscal year.”
Another Facet of Wellness
Braden said one of the biggest benefits LSU’s arcade area has is it attracts a different type of student to the rec center.
“We have one young man who would come in the spring just to play the pinball machine in between classes,” said Braden. “He wasn’t a kid that was going to work out, but he wanted to play pinball.”
The connection between leisure and recreation is only growing. In fact, Lynn Zubernis wrote on the value of leisure in on article on Psychology Today: “Taking time to nurture the self, whether it’s taking a candlelit bath, a brisk walk in the park or watching a favorite TV show, can help us manage stress, provide a sense of balance and bolster our self-esteem.”
It’s with that mindset that Braden also recognizes the importance of spare time for students. She insists providing leisurely activities such as the arcade area will round-out one’s wellness.
“It’s something that is attractive to lots of people whether they are going to do it after their workout or if they are coming just to play,” she said. “It helps create balance along with working out. It’s welcoming and inclusive. Recreation isn’t just fitness. Recreation can be leisurely.”
Moving forward, Braden wants to see the space continue to grow, but she also hopes more universities provide an arcade area for students.
“Add these activities that are leisure-originated because they contribute to the well-being of students,” said Braden. “My advice to others is to add gaming spaces where people can play as groups or individuals. Numbers are important, but the quality of experience and meeting students where they are is more important. It’s about the students we can serve.”