Strategic Enhancements for Outdoor Campus Facilities

· by Ben Michalak

Outdoor spaces on college campuses are among the most important resources for Campus Recreation professionals. The growing trend of enhancing outdoor spaces reflects how important they can be in supporting student engagement and success. Not only can they expand your campus’ recreation efforts, but studies suggest that access to dynamic green spaces promote both physical and mental wellbeing in students. However, outdoor spaces can pose challenges in maintaining consistent service quality and resource management standards, as opposed to controlled indoor recreation centers. 

Outdoor recreation spaces can also be complicated by campus layouts. It isn’t uncommon for outdoor spaces to be far away from those indoor centers considered to be hubs of campus rec engagement. This disconnection can make tracking inventory between spaces difficult for Campus Recreation staff. 

Outdoor spaces can be 80% cheaper than indoor centers, and can help you expand student access to campus recreation offerings beyond building hours. For Campus Recreation professionals looking to elevate the functionality and appeal of these spaces, here are three actionable strategies that can be implemented to improve efficiency and consistency throughout the year.

Optimize Your Communication Channels

Strong communication is essential for managing dispersed recreational facilities effectively. Reinforcing the links between the main recreation center and its outdoor extensions can significantly improve service consistency. In a recent survey we conducted at the NIRSA 2024 conference, 70% of Campus Rec professionals said they manage more than one space outside their primary recreation building. Despite having different operational needs, it’s crucial for facilities to be on the same page and uphold the same rental standards in order to provide students with an enriching recreational experience. 

Solutions might include real-time digital updates, mobile app notifications about equipment availability, and direct communication lines for instant feedback and support. These methods help ensure that services are synchronized and that students are well-informed, regardless of their location on campus. Some universities use social media to inform students on occupancy and updates, while some turn to specific apps and services. 

No matter the method, managing your outdoor spaces will become a less burdensome task when the communication channels are open and robust. 

Empower Students to Engage and Give Feedback

Collecting and integrating student feedback is vital for the ongoing improvement of outdoor recreational spaces. Simple feedback mechanisms such as QR codes linked to online surveys at various outdoor locations can be an effective way to gather direct user insights. This approach allows for the collection of valuable feedback that can guide continuous adjustments and enhancements, tailored to meet student preferences and increase facility utilization. 

Additionally, hosting themed events that raise awareness for your outdoor spaces–especially ones linked to indoor facilities–can help orient students to their available campus rec spaces. 

By focusing on these strategies, you can significantly boost the quality and attractiveness of your campus’ outdoor recreational areas. These initiatives not only improve the immediate usability of these spaces but also contribute to their long-term viability as essential components of the campus environment. Through strategic planning and responsive innovation, outdoor recreational facilities can achieve and maintain high standards of service, making them valuable assets to the collegiate experience.

Implement an Automated Inventory Management System

Inventory management is an issue flagged by many Campus Rec professionals. Tracking inventory is not an easy task, especially with limited staffing resources managing a high-traffic rec center. 

Outdoor recreation poses the unique struggle of students not returning equipment to the desk or receptacle where they found it—instead, opting to take it with them back to their rooms or leaving it stranded in the middle of a field. 

Installing automated inventory management systems can transform the management of remote recreational facilities. These systems efficiently track equipment usage, availability, and support needs automatically, ensuring equipment is ready and functional when needed. Automated accountability is a cornerstone of inventory management systems. Rather than sending staff members to chase down renters with overdue equipment, the management system will keep track of renters and send them notifications when their equipment is due back. 

RecRe’s automated rental platform reliably handles inventory management so your staff can focus more on improving student engagement and other critical areas. Having a RecRe box in a central location is the best way to optimize your outdoor spaces. Not only will you notice a rise in space usage, but your inventory will return at the end of the day. 

We talked more in-depth about automation in Campus Recreation in our recent webinar titled “Embracing Automation in Campus Rec.” You can access our insights into the future of automation on college campuses, current success stories, and more in a recording of the webinar–available below!