Student recreation and campus fitness centers across the country are integral to campus life. Usually the rec center doubles as a hangout location for students, with the opportunity to grab a quick workout between classes or before heading home to the dorms. Though you might think it would be different at a commuter college like Red Rocks Community College in Golden, Colorado, campus administration set out to make their new recreation center an innovative community hub that’s as much a part of the Red Rocks Community College experience as in-class education. They succeeded to the point where students spend most of their spare time in the recreation center, and students consider it a valuable perk that makes tuition even easier to pay (since they no longer need an extra gym membership).
In fact, the project originated with the student body. “This project was brought to life by our student government,” said Kirk Fallon, Director of Student Recreation for Red Rocks Community College (RRCC). “They brought it to a vote and it passed overwhelmingly with 70 percent approval from the students. From there, we broke ground on the rebuild and started to move forward.”
The process was a long one, taking about two years from contract to completion, as grants and funding processes take time and can be complicated. Fallon joined the Red Rocks Community College staff about half way through the rebuild, taking the reins and finishing out the rec center with an equipment plan that he helped design with the guidance of the experts at Advanced Exercise.
“We have very different levels of fitness at this college. We have people who have been working out their whole lives as well as people that… maybe this is their first time in a gym, so this fitness center might be the first time stepping foot in the weight room. We wanted to make sure that we have equipment that makes sense for all of our demographics and Advanced Exercise really helped me focus in on what makes sense here,” he added.
Prior to the rebuild, according to Fallon, there were “some dumbbells and a couple of treadmills” and that was it. After working through the student’s plans for innovation and expansion, the new floorplan included a stretching space for body weight work, water rowers, a TreadDesk, a free weight area and a large cardio floor. “I wanted the best quality equipment for the students, and that included brands like Hammer Strength, Life Fitness,” admitted Fallon. “Since Advanced Exercise worked with those and more, and had a word-of-mouth reputation for amazing service, it was a natural fit to get them to help me.”
Fallon first met with the Advanced Exercise team about two weeks after he came on staff: “It was very early on in the process, before I really knew quite what I was doing or what I wanted,” he said. “I loved that they didn’t give me the ‘used car salesman schtick’. They realized that I had to go through other hurdles. I had a lot of research left to do and they knew that I was in it for the students. They knew that my sole focus was to make sure the students got the best equipment for them with the budget we had. What I appreciate most is their dedication to what makes sense for you and your facility.”
Advanced Exercise’s Dave Farrell took Fallon to another fitness facility to show him how some of the ideas for designing and equipping fitness spaces can come to life and, as he was explaining a host of new options, introduced him to the TreadDesk idea, which the Red Rocks students and faculty now absolutely love. The TreadDesk is a slow-speed treadmill with an adjustable desktop where you can plug in and have a desktop to rest your laptop or phone on, while you walk. Since kinetic movement is good for stimulating brain function, it was a natural addition for the Red Rocks students. “This is my first college rec center to think of adding TreadDesks to the normal facility space, and it’s been a great success so far,” said Dave Farrell, the Advanced Exercise fitness design consultant who worked on the project.
The connection between fitness facility client and consultant was vital for Kirk Fallon and the team at Red Rocks Community College. Fallon had been in campus recreation for over 8 years, having seen and done many projects over that time. However, he noted, “I may think I have an idea, but just having someone to bounce ideas off of, to say ‘hey does that make sense in our facility or should we go with something else?’ makes a ton of difference. The team from Advanced Exercise was very honest, which is something that we really don’t find with a lot of vendors. They were able to tell me ‘you know that’s a very nice piece but maybe doesn’t make sense’, or ‘you know that this is really nice but I think we can do better here.’”
The campus fitness facility opened in August 2017 and the student body has been singing the praises of the new options. “They love the equipment, they love the technology,” added Fallon.
The technology components were a complicated but necessary part of the process for RRCC. “The Red Rocks internal IT department was having some trouble figuring out how to get the cardio connected, but we worked closely with them and with Life Fitness to test multiple solutions and make sure that the technology worked seamlessly on their system,” said Advanced Exercise’s Dave Farrell.
“The technology piece is probably what I am most excited about,” admits Fallon. “A lot of students like to have that technology right in front of their face and that’s what we wanted to provide them – so these consoles have IPTV ¬ apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, all these things that students want while they’re exercising. … they can log into their personal accounts, see things, and be entertained and engaged while they’re here. The LFConnect cardio program allows students to track their workouts and sync with other students. It’s pretty incredible.”
On the backend, the technology helps Fallon manage the facility better as well. “LFConnect allows us to track usage, see which treadmills are most popular, which pieces we need to rotate to ensure they’re all getting equal use,” he added. The underlying administrative data that he has access to allows him to track most popular times for cardio equipment use, how many miles have been logged in a given timeframe, and other metrics that prove the returns the campus is seeing on the investment while helping managers to optimally maintain and manage the equipment usage. Plus, they can create custom messages to appear on cardio screens, advertising campus events and other marketing messages that they want to get out to the student body.
The whole community involved with Red Rocks Community College is supporting the new rec center. Fallon mentioned the vision for the facility; “We hope that this building becomes the hub of wellness and recreation for these students.
One of the first things someone told me when I arrived on campus was that Red Rocks Community College is a community college without a sense of community and that’s what they hope this rec center would provide. I believe we’re accomplishing that right now because we’re having these intramural programs, group fitness programs, just working out in the weight room, running on the treadmills together… things like that. Building the feel of ‘community’ on campus and making students want to stay here and thrive here.”
With notable pride in his voice, Fallon concludes by saying: “At the end of the day, all of our goals revolve around student success. That’s what we’re here to provide. So, if we can provide a space for students to thrive in the classroom, a space to thrive and to improve their lifestyles and build that sense of community, then we’ve done our job. I think we’re well on our way.”
About Advanced Exercise
Founded in 1986, Advanced Exercise is a leading fitness equipment and facility design resource, representing more than 30 equipment brands to bring clients the best new or used equipment solutions to maximize the use of available space and meet the needs of a diverse community of fitness amenity end users. For more information on fitness equipment and facility design services, visit www.advancedexercise.com or call 800-520-1112 to connect with one of Advanced Exercise’s experts.