At the beginning of the spring semester, students who go to the Peters Recreation Complex on almost any night of the week will find that basketballs are a rare commodity, but that certainly isn’t due to a lack of basketballs.
When all the basketballs are in use, the Rec Complex staff must put up a sign stating that all 45 of the Rec’s basketballs are checked out. This is due to the round-the-clock evening intramural games on six of the Rec’s eight indoor basketball courts, as well as a few pickup games on the other courts.
“It’s been pretty common for all of the basketballs to check out every day,” said Jason Brungardt, assistant director of facility operations at the Rec Complex. “We’re averaging — especially with intramurals going on — checking out the basketballs around 350 times each day.”
The high frequency at which basketballs are checked out not only shows students’ high interest in intramurals and pickup games at the Rec. It also indicates a heavy rate of traffic through the Rec Complex’s doors. From fall 2015 to summer 2016, over 880,000 people swiped their IDs at either the Rec. Complex or the Natatorium.
The 880,000 swipes does not take into account other facilities that do not require an ID to enter, and Brungardt said the number of times the Recreational Service’s facilities were used during that time frame easily tops a million swipes.
Out of the five busiest days on record at the Rec Complex, four have been on the first days of each semester, particularly the spring semester, Brungardt said.
The busiest day so far this semester follows that same pattern, as 6,426 people swiped into the Rec. Complex on Jan. 17, which was the first day of the semester.
“There’s definitely a correlation with New Year’s resolutions,” said Steve Martini, Recreational Services director. “There’s also the fact that it’s winter and it’s tough to go outside, and spring break is also coming up.”
Intramurals a popular attraction at the Rec
Students who participate in intramurals definitely make up a large portion of the daily traffic, Martini said.
“For intramurals, our numbers have always been really high for the number of students we have at K-State,” Martini said. “If you take basketball, it’s probably the largest intramural by number of teams. Our participation rates are really high because students here typically live really close to campus; there’s a large residence system that’s here. Lots of students at K-State come from smaller towns where they all played in competitive sports, and that’s a reason why our intramurals are pretty large.”
To create more space for activities, the Rec underwent a $23 million renovation that was completed in 2013. Martini said demand has always met capacity at the building.
“If the building were smaller, the numbers would be less because it’d be too crowded,” Martini said. “The bigger building allows us to do more. We have more space for intramurals, we have more sports clubs and more fitness classes.”
“We keep thinking more space will make the building less crowded, but we build it and there’s other limiting factors,” Martini continued. “The parking lots are full and then you’ve got to wait for someone else to leave. Or you’re waiting for a basketball court to open because you’re waiting for a court to open, and it means less courts for people to shoot around. We have a very active student body.”
The Rec. Complex schedules around 350 intramural basketball teams to play games between 5 and 11 p.m. each night, except for Sundays. On an average night, six games are played every hour, with 12 teams of approximately eight people per team participating within that hour. Altogether, there are about 576 players who cycle through the complex’s courts every evening.
The 576 players per evening number does not include spectators, who easily add another few thousand, said Tyler Burroughs, intramural coordinator.
“Over half the (intramural) hours are used by fraternities, and they usually bring in excess of 50 people per chapter to spectate the games,” Burroughs said.
About 200 intramural officials — a substantial portion of the 350 students employed by the Rec. Complex — maintain order for the various intramural sports among the players and teams.
As the semester progresses, other intramural sports will become the driving factors in the Rec’s high rate of attendance.
In an email, Martini said Recreational Services expects 250 softball teams and 130 indoor soccer teams to register for play later this spring.
“We’re actually at capacity for all versions of soccer,” Burroughs said. “We legitimately don’t have any more room to fit the amount of teams we have — facilities or time-wise. We had 100 teams for outdoor soccer, and we’ll probably have 130 teams for indoor (soccer). That’s only because indoor games are shorter, and we only started indoor soccer games a few years ago.”
Recreational Services offers 60 different intramural sports, and leagues typically fill up quickly, Burroughs said.
“We’re at capacity for a lot of niche sports,” Burroughs said. “I strongly believe that if we did decide to use all eight courts for all of the basketball intramural hours, we’d fill those slots easily.”
Martini said the campus is currently undergoing a “campus health and wellness study,” which could mean a redevelopment of the Rec. Complex to include mental and health facilities.
In addition to the 45 basketballs, the Recreation Complex’s desk has 20 volleyballs, 20 soccer balls, 12 badminton racquets, 44 racquetball racquets, 10 tennis racquets, 15 jump ropes, six Xbox controllers and 30 locks for checkout.
Another popular item is towels, which Brungardt said are checked out around 500 times per day.
Around the Rec., students can use one of 15 treadmills, 34 elliptical machines, 21 stationary bikes, six stairmills, eight rowing machines, eight bench presses, four squat racks, three Olympic lifting platforms, 31 selectorized pieces of equipment, 12 plate-loaded pieces of equipment, six adjustable cable-fly machines, dumbbells ranging from 2.5 to 150 lbs., two Smith machines, five preacher-curl benches and 14 adjustable benches.
The complex also has 13 indoor basketball and volleyball courts; an indoor multi-activity court, which can be used as an indoor soccer court, inline hockey rink or three indoor tennis courts; two wallyball courts; 14 racquetball courts; two squash courts; six badminton courts and three table-tennis tables.
Outside, the Rec. maintains several fields for intramural sports, including four ultimate Frisbee fields, one soccer field, eight softball diamonds and six flag-football fields. During the warmer periods of the school year, students use the three outdoor basketball courts, four sand volleyball courts and six outdoor tennis courts at the Rec. Complex.
Off-site facilities include the Natatorium, Memorial Stadium, the Outdoor Recreation Center, the Outdoor Rental Center, the challenge course and the running trail. Brungardt said it is difficult to count how many people use the outdoor and off-site facilities because students are not required to use their IDs at those places, with the exception of the Natatorium.
During the summer, the facilities still see large rates of usage, but primarily from camps and community members.
“During breaks, we have a lot of camps for athletic teams because we have the space and it’s a way to get a little bit of revenue,” Brungardt said. “We don’t count those people in our totals for the year either. We’ll have a basketball camp, and there’ll easily be a thousand high school boys for that camp alone, as well as parents or other people that come along to those camps.”
Nine professional staff members organize 350 student workers to keep all of the facilities running, Martini said.
“Most of our staff is students,” Martini said. “Nine professionals and some full-time custodians, but the rest of our staff is students. The money that we get from students and privilege fees, a lot of it goes back to student salaries.”
Brungardt said during fall 2015, about 79 percent of K-State’s student body swiped through the building at least once.
“The sheer number of students makes that number significant,” Brungardt said. “I think it’s because we have a large amount of programs we offer for free or for an unbelievably low cost. A lot of students might see all of the programs we offer, and they’ll remember to come back and try the intramurals, or they might try an exercise class. We can bring in a pretty diverse demographic with all of the services we offer.”
Martini said the number of programs offered allow students to come to the Rec. Complex without any particular intention.
“All of the different programs mean that students don’t need to have a purpose to come out here,” Martini said. “They can just come out here and study out here, or people-watch, or shoot some hoops, or sit and have a smoothie, or watch some TV or I could exercise. We have a lot of things you can do out here. A lot of people come out here with a purpose in mind, but a lot of people come out and just immerse themselves in the facility.”
Many students try a lot of what the Rec. offers, and Brungardt said that is one of his favorite aspects of the job.
“I’ll see this pretty regularly: a group of four or five people — mixed in terms of diversity and gender and what-not — they’ll come in for 10 minutes and check out basketballs, then 30 minutes later, they’ll come back and get badminton equipment,” Brungardt said. “Then they’ll come back and get a soccer ball. Then they’ll go run around on the track for a bit. It’s cool to see that they literally come for zero purpose other than to be with each other and to have fun.”
“It’s a social atmosphere that creates a good break from worrying about school or anything else,” Brungardt continued. “I can’t sell that enough — it’s a break from reality and a break from stress. It can be tough, but the more you socialize and do recreational activities, your quality of life will increase.”
Martini said regardless of the reason behind the large number of attendance, all-in-all, the Rec. provides a positive environment for students.
“Our purpose is to provide a good, safe, fun environment for people to come and do whatever they want in our building — whether it’s to compete or exercise or to relax and socialize, it’s whatever they want it to be,” Martini said.