Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) Campus Recreation recently marked the 20-year anniversary of the Morris Recreation Center (MRC) with a casino night celebration in November.
The event drew a large crowd of students, former MRC staff, and current university faculty, staff and MRC members. Attendees were treated to an enthusiastic evening of casino games, magic, food, mocktails and various raffle prizes.
Mark Spellmire and Jonathan Johnston, the associate directors of TAMUC Campus Recreation, said the department always wanted to do something special to commemorate the many years of success.
“Twenty years is a significant landmark and we wanted to celebrate it with the everyone,” said Spellmire. “For the theme, we first had a brainstorming of themes at a department retreat. From there, our Department Event Committee decided on the casino night theme as we thought it would be a blast. We then took that theme and started to come up with the activities, food, prizes and the overall feel of the event.”
Casino Night Details
Spellmire said casino night participants were given $1,000 of fake money and five prize tickets when they entered the MRC. They could participate in classic casino games such as poker, blackjack, craps and roulette, and some non-traditional games such as pick-a-hand, heads or tails, pick a number between one and 10, and spin the wheel.
“People could bet as much of their funny money as they wanted,” said Spellmire. “When you were done playing, you could cash out your funny money for prize tickets and enter your tickets into various prizes.”
Campus Recreation was able to hold the event by utilizing a third-party company, Texas Entertainment Group, for the classic casino games. Johnston said they also brought in a magician and did some money drops from the jogging track that was received well by students. Everything else was conducted by the MRC’s student staff.
Creating a Successful Celebration
When it comes to creating an effective Campus Recreation event, Spellmire said to first make sure to plan and budget way ahead of time. Specifically, he said for the casino night they started planning three-plus months beforehand and meeting every other week.
“One of our big goals was to transform the space so it didn’t feel like you were in a gym but a casino,” said Spellmire. “We were able to do this with lighting, floor tarps, red carpet and décor. We wanted to have that ‘wow’ factor.”
Spellmire also said teamwork was an essential element in ensuring the event was a success. “We involved everyone in our department and asked for feedback to make sure we didn’t miss anything so we could create an event to be remembered,” he added.
Before hosting a major event or celebration, Johnston advised other campus rec departments to create a very detailed marketing campaign before hosting a major event or celebration.
“One of our student graphic designers worked on all the designs,” said Johnston. “We crafted a great social media plan. Then we also reached out to University Marketing and Communications to help with videography/photography, a story for the campus community and the public, and creating alignment on our marketing ideas. They were just as excited as we were to celebrate the 20th birthday of the MRC.”
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