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How the Recreation Center is using data to transform

The Student Recreation Center Downtown added a new front desk counter and fingerprint technology over the winter break. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Students who regularly utilize the recreation center may have noticed the changes in facilities over the past year. Last summer, the weight room was renovated with better flooring and new equipment, and the security was upgraded to fingerprints instead of having to use PantherCards to enter. Part II of the recreation center’s upgrades took place over Winter Break, which included resurfacing of the exercise room on the main floor and overhauling the welcome desk.

According to Jenny Lehigh, the assistant director of Fitness, Georgia State has almost paid off its mortgage for the building, which is significant because it means student fees can be reallocated to other areas in the budget.

Industry standards suggest replacing flooring, tiling, and equipment every 10 years. The recreation center was built in 2001, making it close to 17 years old. However, because the recreation center staff does a deep cleaning and conditioning every August and December, management was able to make the gym facilities last much longer. Melissa Buchheit, the director of Recreational Service, said the team worked hard to keep facilities up-to-date and functional for gym-goers. She said student employees have kept count of the number of patrons in each room of the facility, allowing management to analyze what areas of the recreation center are the most popular.

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The prime example of the facilities’ use of student data to improve user experience is their repurposing of the squash courts. In 2001, squash was a more popular sport among students, but since then, use of the room has dropped off. Since the weight lifting areas have become more commonly used and thus congested, employees were able to transform the squash room into another area where patrons could lift weights.

The new floors on the main floor and upper levels are shock-absorbent, improving the experiences of those who lift weights and do aerobics. The turnstyles have been replaced with biometric scanners similar to the ones in the library to improve security and speed up lines to enter the gym area. Additionally, the new desk in the welcome center is designed to allow employees to move more easily and better serve the users so the lines for services do not congest.

“It’s better for the patrons —it’s easier to see, it’s just more functional,” Jenny Lehigh said.

According to Buchheit, data collected from the biometric turnstyles and headcounts from gym employees indicated that recreation center usage has increased 48 percent for fiscal year 2017, when compared to fiscal year 2015. Specifically, almost 650,000 patrons dropped in to work out in fiscal year 2017, compared to over 400,000 in fiscal year 2015. The dramatic increase in volume reflects a change in the makeup of Georgia State, suggested Buchheit. More students are living on or close to campus, so more people want to maximize the university’s resources. More utilization of the recreation center demonstrated a need to keep the center as serviceable and efficient as possible.

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