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CSU Recreation Services: Transforming the Campus over 15 Years

Rec CenterIn 2004, Cleveland State University launched a bold, invigorating Campus Master Plan that would help drive the university over the next ten years. The plan was motivated by new attitudes and philosophies and how they might help reshape CSU’s campus and its role as a beacon for the city.

One of the keystones of this plan was the creation a brand new 110,000 square foot Recreation Center at the corner of Chester Avenue and East 24th Street – a facility that would ultimately accelerate and dramatically transform both the CSU Campus Recreation Services department (and the campus itself) forever.          

Following the market analysis and the financial and technical expertise Brailsford & Dunlavey, CSU entered into a management agreement with its subsidiary company, CENTERS, LLC. After much consideration, planning and construction, the CSU Recreation Center opened on August 26, 2006.

Serving Campus and Community
The CSU Recreation Center and Campus Recreation Services have had a dramatic impact on CSU’s student body and beyond. In order to incorporate the city into the campus, in 2007, the building and its services opened to the broader community. As of 2021, the center has a community membership base more than 1,200 individuals and welcomes thousands of guests annually.       

Student DevelopmentRec Student workers
Campus recreation plays a significant role in higher education and student development through participation in quality recreational programs, facilities and services – as well as employment within the department.

As the largest student employer on campus, more than 200 students comprise a diverse group of positions including operations assistants, membership representatives, lifeguards, swim instructors, fitness instructors, personal trainers, graphic designers, photographers, intramural officials, camp counselors, trip leaders and various student supervisor positions.

What’s more, programs and services are student-run and directed, with professional staff at the ready to develop and mentor these students through their collegiate Engaged Learning experience.

Facility Upgrades and Rebranding
For the last 15 years, CSU and CENTERS have collaborated to make appropriate upgrades throughout the facility, enhancing both the user experience and venue functionality. Space adjustments were made based on membership needs and continue to take place on an as-needed basis.

Collaboration with CSU’s University Marketing helped raise the level of awareness for the facility through a thoughtful rebranding process.

Rec LobbyAmong the changes that longtime CSU students, faculty, staff and alumni will recognize include an expanded men’s locker room, a Pro Shop (formerly Energy Oasis Juice Bar), an environmentally-friendly green roof including 3,000 square feet of patio pavers and an equal amount of green foliage; a Fitness & Wellness Suite and an Adventure Recreation Program fortified with Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) grants to purchase rentable outdoor equipment, and to conduct outdoor clinics and courses.

Programming and Service Enhancements
With new facility spaces available, the staff continued to be innovative and creative with programming and services. Traditional fitness and wellness programs did not previously exist on campus, while limited intramural and club sports programming were operated either by various athletic coaches and/or the Department of Student Life.

Major changes to CSU’s recreation programs over the last 15 years have resulted 3.2 million unique individual visits (400,000 unique individuals) and dramatic increases in annual program participation numbers since opening the facility. This is due in large part to new, diverse programming. Recent additions in Aquatics, Safety Courses (including Lifeguard Training, First Aid and adult/pediatric CPR), Fitness, Pink Gloves Boxing, F45 Training and Club Sports have bolstered this effort.

Intramurals programming has swelled to over 600 participants across 75 different teams over 150 league contests.  And with day- and summer camps and milestone events like Rock the Rec and WellFest bringing hundreds of people together, the next 15 years and beyond look especially bright.

The Future
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Campus Recreation Services endeavored a five-year business plan in direct alignment with CSU’s original Statement of Strategic Priorities and subsequently updated CSU 2.0 plan to emerge from the pandemic a stronger and more focused institution.

By creating its own set of broad strategic initiatives, as well as specific business goals and objectives, Campus Recreation Services is better able to position theRec Center Student Workers department within the university framework while supporting the overall vision, mission and goals of CSU.

We plan to continue to achieve this through a robust, visible digital presence in the metro-Cleveland marketplace and to build Campus Recreation Services into a university-recognized wellness leadership brand – one that is a comprehensive and sought-after campus partner, collaborator and employer that will energize our community and membership base. 

On August 26, 2021, CSU celebrated the Campus Recreation Services department and Recreation Center 15-Year Anniversary during their annual fall Rock the Rec event welcoming students back to campus.

There are many capital improvements, programming ideas and service initiatives (including digital enrollment and membership) to accomplish over the next several years, but Campus Recreation Services stands poised to accomplish those goals and more for the future success of CSU.