Meeting Growth and Growing Student Recreation Demands at the University of Arizona

Devin Meister

February 2, 2022

The higher education market is changing. Now the experience outside of the classroom is a big consideration for every student when they are choosing a college.

Because of the year-round sunshine and abundance of activities, the University of Arizona has been a magnet for prospective students. The result is a growing enrollment and a very active student body of more than 45,000 plus faculty and the community at large.

Accommodating that demand and planning for the future fall squarely on the shoulders of the Campus Recreation Department. That’s why Courtney Copp, Assistant Director, Facilities & Member Services at the university, is glad that they use Vermont Systems. With more than 12 years of experience in recreation management, she appreciates the broad range of capabilities that enhances the experience of their users, keeps things organized, and delivers information and insights to effectively plan their next steps.

Foundation for Recreation Success

The University of Arizona has been a long-time user of Vermont Systems, going live in 2010. Over the years the value has been apparent. As the university programs grew with the student population, Vermont Systems software has evolved and enabled them to keep pace with what students want and expect. As Courtney puts it, “the system helps us meet student demands.” With more than 1 million visits a year and upwards of 25,000 per week even during a pandemic, usage is very high.  “The understanding of our capacity and just how much we do is critical,” she says. “It presents a very good picture of how much we do, how much we sell, how many people we have, how many unique visitors we have.”

That’s where Vermont Systems’ reporting capabilities come in. From daily usage reports emailed every Monday to specific deep dives done by their in-house data analyst, reporting is critical to understanding facility usage, program participation, and if they’re meeting expectations. Relates Courtney, “It’s been very beneficial to back up what we want to do, especially with our director and student affairs on campus. We get a lot of support from the university to run and to do essentially what we want because of the reporting that we’re able to get from the system.”

That information is readily available in the system, but they’re continuously tweaking it to get the precise information they need. “I think it’s awesome that we have these Vermont Systems templates for all of the types of reports that we may run. But you can also create your own types of reports based on your needs for your specific department. If you were to go into our system you’d see that we use all the Vermont Systems reporting templates that they provide, but we’ve also made so many more just in the three years that I’ve been here because there’s particular information that is more important to us than to another university department.”

What they’ve found is they need to continue growing. “We’re in high demand and our leadership wants to see us all across campus. So from one original facility that we expanded in 2010, we then added a facility on the north side of campus two years ago, and just a couple of weeks ago we added our third facility in the center of campus that is incorporated within our student success district. It really comes down to the demand that we see on campus, reflected in the reporting, the numbers, and the number of unique visitors. Our data analyst will run the reports, and collect all the information and present it to us in regards to our strategic plan, our goals and vision for the year, and how we may need to adapt to the demand because students’ desires are ever-changing. We have to accommodate what is needed on campus from the students and reporting helps us justify what we want to do on campus.”

Bringing a Big Campus Together

One thing every Vermont Systems user finds and quickly appreciates is the breadth and capability of the system. From individual modules, the system grows to an integrated environment that streamlines all kinds of processes and operations. That’s important in coordinating activities with multiple facilities. For example, Courtney offers their work orders. “We added Work Orders recently, within the past year and a half or so. Now all of our work orders go within the system. We just opened a third facility literally two weeks ago. So we have three facilities in total and to have a work order system that’s organized and that provides updates of when it’s approved and done has been really, really beneficial for our entire maintenance team.”

Another big benefit that Campus Recreation at the University of Arizona realizes is in the creation of their activity programs with Vermont Systems. “I really like the activity program entry system that we have,” said Courtney.  “When our program team is creating programs like fitness aquatics, outdoor, youth programs, everything, we’re able to create things seamlessly and make them as creative as possible. That’s part of the reason why we rely on RecTrac is that we can create rules and fees and adjust settings for activities in so many different ways that no other software can do. That’s been really beneficial to our program team because many of our offerings have age restrictions and prerequisites for things that you wouldn’t normally think of when you’re selling an item.”

“We also really like WebTrac because of its ability to link to our website and enable people to purchase anything from there except for passes. We don’t sell memberships there, but we have all of our activities up and available for sale, which is really convenient for people who may not want to or be able to come in and purchase at the front desk. For example, we have parents who are specifically looking on our site just to enroll their kid in camp who will never step foot into this facility, they just drop their kid off at our back entrance where they go to camp. And we have unique users that always buy online because of the nature of our programming.”

Focusing on Student and Staff Experiences, Not the Servers and IT

Over time there was one thing that wasn’t keeping pace with their needs:  the available IT resources. Since the initial implementation, their Vermont Systems software was located on-premise and on servers actually in the building. When the servers went down, it was up to Courtney to restart them, no matter when. That is until they switched to Vermont Systems Hosted. For Courtney, that was a miracle in the making. “It actually made me love my job a lot more,” she says. “I was hating my job for all of the times I had to remote in and restart the system every time it crashed. For us, the decision at the time was, ‘no money can equate to the amount of time that it would take when we would have to go in and restart the system.’ It’s been nice.” Since they’ve gone to a hosted system it has been virtually foolproof. Instead of hopping on a call and having Vermont Systems support trying to walk through and train the staff, tech can go in and fix it – and updates are made automatically. That means they are always working with the latest version of the software and getting the most out of the system.

Building for the Future

Doing what you want, whether it’s a job you find challenging or adding programs to a university’s campus recreation offerings, having the right tools and mindset are critical to success. The University of Arizona Campus recreation has found both with Courtney Copp and Vermont Systems. “For us, it’s all about, where can we get the most bang for our buck?” says Courtney.  “We want to use the system to its capacity. And so we have done that and we’ll only expand further and further. That’s why the last couple of years we’ve included installment billing. We converted all of our work order systems inside of here. So that it’s all under one umbrella. We’re continually trying to make things as usable within here (the Vermont Systems software) as possible so that we’re not relying on other sources and just using one system.”

It’s those challenges and growth opportunities that make Courtney love her job. “Every day is different. There are constant challenges, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth. In my time here at U of A, I’ve gained a depth of experience that I don’t think I would’ve gotten anywhere else. I’ve got to open two facilities, work a lot on the back end of the software and, get a lot of experience that I never thought I would have. It’s never boring.”

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