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Resolutions or reductions? Decreased first-week attendance at USF REC and FIT

Although The REC is the largest on-campus fitness facility with 189,000 square feet, approximately 24,000 square feet of fitness floor space, it still saw a decline in attendance. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Determined to stick to new year’s resolutions, students flood the gyms in January. This year, however, gym attendance at the USF Recreation and Wellness, as well as USF Health and Wellness, has shifted.

USF has three main gyms: the USF Recreation and Wellness Center, the USF Wellness, Engagement, Leadership and Learning (WELL) and the Fit. 

In the first week of the spring semester in 2023, 18,694 students swiped in at all USF fitness facilities according to Antonio Gonzalez, interim associate director of marketing and maintenance. This spring, Gonzalez said 16,656 students checked in, representing a 10% decline.

For summer to fall of 2023, attendance rates declined for the REC and the FIT. The REC went from 225,828 to 218,724 swipes – a slight 3% decrease in attendees – whereas the FIT saw a decrease in swipes from 39,138 to 32,103 – an 18% decline, according to Gonzalez.

A student survey asking students what factors impede their use of USF RecWell facilities offer insight into the changing attendance patterns, Gonzalez said. The primary factors that affect attendance are lack of time, lack of awareness of offerings and crowded facilities, according to the survey results.

Areas of the REC are under construction to make way for an esports lab and bouldering wall. The Esports Living Lab (ELL) is scheduled to open fall 2024, while the bouldering wall is indefinitely delayed.

Related: Temporary esports lab opens at Tampa campus, permanent lab to open fall 2024

Although the facilities saw less attendees within the first week of school in the spring and fall semester, there’s one USF Health and Wellness facility that seems to be attracting students: the USF WELL facility.

From July 2023 to the end of the fall semester, the USF WELL has had 8,762 attendees, a 15% increase from the 7,600 attendees it had from a similar time frame in 2023, according to Gonzalez.

The difference in swipes across all three spaces declined by 5,908 swipes, according to Gonzalez. The rise in attendance at the WELL was attributed to increased undergraduate class presence in the area, Gonzalez said. 

The WELL is a hidden gem, according to sophomore psychology major Colby Brookes.

“I used to go to the FIT, because it’s in The Village. But the WELL is closer to my classes, and not a lot of people know about it, so it’s a lot less crowded,” Brookes said. 

The FIT pool is undergoing construction to replace its surface that was consistently breaking into small pieces. The project should be completed by the end of February.

Related: Surface of the FIT pool to be replaced after broken pieces posed risk to students 

The WELL is located among the USF Health buildings. With only 8,000 total square feet and 5,000 square feet of fitness floor space, the WELL is smaller and more secluded than the REC or the FIT. 

While it doesn’t offer the full range of equipment at the REC, the WELL enables access to fitness floor space and a functional training area as well as one group fitness room and restroom/locker rooms.

Senior health science major Candice Keung, who recently attended the WELL for the first time, was pleasantly surprised by its functionality.

“This is actually my first time coming to the WELL, but I like coming here because it’s cleaner, nicer and closer than the REC,” Keung said. 

The niche location may contribute to the WELL’s use, Keung said. Because she has class in close proximity to the WELL, she finds it easy to swipe in after.

“I have class right over here, so it’s easy to come to the WELL,” Keung said. “It depends on what works for you.”