Halas Recreation Center Sees Increased Student Traffic

Halas Recreation Center has reached record attendance as many students use the facility for the first time.

Halas Recreation Center reached 2,461 entries Jan. 23, marking the highest daily attendance recorded in the past five years. The uptick in attendance has been theorized to be from higher student enrollment, weather, New Year’s resolutions and TikTok trends, leaving students waiting in line to use equipment.

During the first week of classes, Halas saw a 13% increase in attendance from week one of the 2020 spring semester, according to Megan Morris, director of Campus Recreation. 

Morris said in an email statement to The Phoenix there have been 176,327 entries into Halas between the start of the school year and Feb. 3., and the fitness center is on track to surpass total attendance during the 2018-19 school year, the last full year before COVID-19 protocols were implemented. 

Halas has had 7,296 individual patrons enter the facility so far this school year, more than it had during the entire 2018-19 school year, according to Morris. She said all of the facility’s programs, including aquatics, intramural sports and rock wall climbing, are experiencing a rise in usage.

Morris said Halas does not enforce a maximum capacity because its three floors allow students enough space to spread out.

There are several theories for the possible causes of the recent uptick in attendance. Morris said record levels of student enrollment are a factor. New enrollments reached 2,867 last school year and 2,864 this year, surpassing the pre-pandemic record of 2,770 set in 2018, according to Loyola’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness.

During the early months of the year, New Year’s resolutions and cold weather forcing students to exercise indoors are additional factors, according to Morris.

Abby Gigler, a junior who is a building manager at Halas, echoed Morris’ New Year’s resolution theory.

“It’s usually always pretty busy the first two or three weeks of school, but this is definitely busier than usual,” Gigler, a biology major on the pre-med track, said.

Emmalee Van Sambeek, a first-year nursing major, said she started coming to Halas at the start of the school year because her friends went there and it gave her something to do with her free time. 

She said she noticed it becoming busier this semester during hours that were previously less crowded. Regarding the influx of students coming for New Year’s resolutions, she said it’s good to see more people taking advantage of the facility, even if she has to wait in line.

“Everyone has to start at some point,” Van Sambeek said. “I’ve been going on and off, so good on them for starting a new habit.”

Mehul Uberoi, a junior, said he’s noticed Halas become more crowded this school year. He said it’s especially noticeable on weekdays in the late afternoon, when he often finds it difficult to access equipment. He attributed this year’s higher attendance to a lifestyle choice among students, which he sees as a positive.

“For me working out is fun,” Uberoi said. “It’s kind of like therapy, so that’s why I’m here a lot, and I think it’s good to see more people here.”

Faith Nguyen, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said she has recently had to wait in line for equipment in both the cardio and weight rooms, a regular occurrence if she comes to Halas in the afternoon.

“I knew there was going to be a lot of people but I didn’t know that I had to wait in a line for the leg extension [machines] and any of the squat racks,” Nguyen said. “There was always a line. When coming to the cardio room as well. All of the machines were taken.”

Nguyen said she usually doesn’t have to wait in line for more than ten minutes.

Maddie Kuehne, a building manager and group fitness instructor at Halas, said societal factors such as social media trends and a pandemic-era push to remain active may also be contributing to the growth in attendance.

Online fitness content grew in importance following the initial closure of public gyms at the start of the pandemic, according to a 2022 Digital Health study.

Genesis Morro, a sophomore double majoring in French and English on the pre-law track, said she’s seen some of her friends encouraged to go to the gym and try out different forms of exercise, such as weightlifting, through recommended videos in their TikTok feeds.

“I think people on the internet are learning different ways to work out, and they’re learning how to apply it at the gym instead of being scared to go out,” Morro said.  

Bridget Meyers, a junior majoring in healthcare administration, said she thinks TikTok is a factor in the attendance levels. She said trends such as the “12-3-30” workout may be leading more people to use treadmills, contributing to higher usage of the cardio room.  

The 12-3-30 workout, which involves walking on a treadmill at a 12 percent incline and speed of 3 mph for 30 minutes, is one of numerous viral fitness trends that emerged on TikTok. At the time of publication its associated hashtag, #12330, has over 278 million views, while the hashtag #fitness has over 279 billion views.

First-year Jose Araujo said he’s attended group fitness (GFIT) spin classes, which Kuehne said contribute to the higher student traffic because of the welcoming atmosphere they provide. Araujo said he enjoys the classes being crowded.

“I think it is more fun to see more people in the classes because you get to meet people with the same or similar interests that you have,” Araujo said.

Araujo said he saw some equipment in the weight room break down near the end of last semester. Morris said the higher attendance does lead to more equipment repairs being necessary, but Campus Recreation works hard with vendors to minimize the downtime. 

Morris said Campus Recreation has worked to accommodate the growing attendance and noted the weight room has undergone recent renovations to adapt to student needs. These include the introduction of new equipment, adjustment of floor plans and remodeling of underused space, such as a former racquetball court now used for weights, according to Morris.

Morris attributed delays in repairing equipment to fitness industry-wide supply chain disruptions since the start of the pandemic. 

According to Medium, a majority of exercise equipment in the United States is imported from Asia, where persistent factory shutdowns have hampered production. Increased demand for equipment during the same timeframe has further contributed to delays in distribution.

Additionally, Morris said Halas is available only to current students and faculty, making the Loyola community its sole focus. This distinguishes it from other college gyms which allow guests from outside of the university community. The policy was originally implemented due to campus-wide pandemic restrictions but was kept in place because of attendance levels.

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Colin Hart

Colin Hart