From 2015 to 2021, Mississippi State University’s (MSU) campus grew by over 10% and total enrollment expanded every year during that span. As the school saw continuous growth, the programming opportunities and revenue strategies within University Recreation also evolved.
Now, facility reservations and memberships account for most of the department’s revenue. Such offerings include party and tournament reservations, personal training, intramural play passes, towel rentals, and more.
“While our department provides staff and community opportunities, we have to remain focused on providing priority-based programming for students to ensure optimal health and well-being,” said Jason Townsend, the associate director of MSU Recreation. “With only one rec center on campus and enrollment continuing to trend upward, space is of the essence. We must be very strategic in our planning to make sure our programming is inclusive for the entire student population.”
One successful revenue strategy was the implementation of a play pass for intramurals. John McNeal, the assistant director for Competitive Sports at MSU, said it offered students a one-time, all-access pass to play unlimited sports rather than paying so many individualized fees. “It really enhanced the sign-up process and made things easier for us and our students as well,” said McNeal.
Improving member experience is also a point of focus for Campus Recreation at the University of New Haven (UNH). The department offers affordable memberships with competitive pricing for alumni.
Marissa Vittorio, the assistant director of Campus Recreation Intramural Sports for CENTERS, LLC at UNH, said the variety of membership offerings and services help set the school apart from other universities.
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“We are working to enhance the experience of our current members by offering guest passes so friends and family can experience the Rec Center with them,” said Vittorio. “Additionally, our members can join intramural leagues, which is a unique membership benefit that helps integrate members into the community.”
To assist in tracking participation and communicating with members and guests, Vittorio said they use Rec Automation as their management platform. But regardless of how successful the program is, the main objective for UNH Campus Recreation is rebuilding after the losses sustained by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While revenue generation is important in enhancing and improving our programs and facilities, we’re fortunate it’s not the primary objective of our operating paradigm,” said Jessica Scibek, the director of Campus Recreation for CENTERS, LLC at UNH. “We are welcoming back any faculty and staff members who were off campus and are now slowly returning to the office and a ‘normal’ routine. We are also strengthening and extending our relationship with students by offering alumni access.”
Memberships are a strong point of focus at Liberty University as well. Sean Sealy, the senior director of Campus Recreation, said their major revenue strategies are:
- Full-access memberships
- Facility rentals
- Personal training packages
- Premium group exercise memberships
- Summer pool memberships
- Locker rentals
Sealy said when trying to determine appropriate revenue strategies for helping Campus Recreation generate additional revenue streams, they typically look to where any needs exist. “The most recent example of this would be the locker rental option being added for our users to have a dedicated locker during a semester or academic year for a nominal fee,” he said.
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Unique offerings like an eight-lane bowling alley, Snowflex facility, equestrian center and gun range help Sealy’s department provide an attractive environment for potential members. To ensure programs run efficiently, Liberty uses SubItUp and IMLeagues for its scheduling software.
“Campus Recreation departments should not box themselves in when creating new space or during a new build,” advised Sealy. “The industry is constantly changing and allowing for flexibility is a must. Listen to the feedback your users provide and stay current on what is trending.”
Flexibility is also critical at UNH where Campus Recreation works closely with other campus partners like Human Services and Environmental Health & Safety. For example, Scibek said they are reaching faculty and staff through a new employee wellness program as part of a collaboration with Human Resources.
“Targeted programs and events like free access to our indoor track during the walking program, a faculty/staff-only fitness class and membership prizes raffled during new employee orientations allow faculty and staff to develop a relationship with us first,” said Scibek. “Once they become familiar with the experience of using our facility in small doses, we invite them to expand their access through a paid membership.”
At MSU, a Campus Recreation membership allows free access to a variety of fitness classes like cycling, meditation, yoga, Pilates, hip-hop, HIIT, heart rate-based training, Amped, aerobic, resistance and step classes for all fitness levels.
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Meridith Nuckolls, the Fitness coordinator at MSU, said they launched an eight-week self-improvement wellness program for members that focuses on physical, nutritional and mental health.
“We also have monthly fitness challenges for group exercise, strength and cardio,” explained Nuckolls. “Both the Wellness program and the fitness challenges are a small fee for the participants. Our goal is to offer something for everyone. We want everyone to feel like they are part of the community.”
Another strong revenue stream for MSU Campus Recreation is each semester the department hosts American Aerobic Association International/International Sports Medicine Association fitness certification workshops for personal training, primary group fitness instructors and cycle instructors. Each workshop costs $99 and is composed of a lecture, practical assessment and written exam.
Regardless of the program or strategy, Townsend said one of the most important facets of generating revenue is not being complacent with an ever-changing student body.
“Constantly bounce ideas off of your colleagues,” said Townsend. “Both internal and external to campus are ways you can stay relevant in your offerings. There is a wealth of professional development opportunities for staff to enhance their knowledge of programming through webinars, summits and conferences. We must stay informed and continually share knowledge with one another.”
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