The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current enrollment of approximately 16,000 students. Serving these students is UCSC’s Office of Physical Education, Recreation, and Sports (OPERS), whose mission is to provide a variety of professional programs and physical activities to promote and enhance community, leadership, lifelong wellness and academic success. OPERS offers a wide range of programs that provide opportunities for beginners as well as more experienced participants, including outdoor recreation, physical education and wellness, intramural sports and sport clubs, and a Division III NCAA Athletic program.
Prior to 2010, OPERS had largely been relying on manual pen-and-paper processes for registration and payments. The system was inefficient and time consuming, so the Department decided it was time to upgrade to a campus recreation software solution.
OPERS is comprised of five different programs. One program, Outdoor Recreation, had created its own custom-built system to process registrations and payments, but all other programs were using a manual method. Each area used things like FileMaker Pro, Excel or just simply paper to get registrants signed up and paid. For memberships, OPERS piggybacked on to a system that Dining and Housing used.“It was not specific to recreation and sports,” mentioned Todd Hammonds, facility center supervisor of OPERS. “It was not set up to manage what we were doing so we really didn’t get the information we needed. For example, it could take eight hours to run a report.”
Overall, it was clear to Todd as well as to Ryan Andrews, executive director of OPERS, that everyone would benefit from an upgrade. They needed a solution that was designed for sports and recreation and could get all programs operating with an automated, efficient system.
In March 2008, it was proposed to UCSC’s leadership that OPERS move to a web‑based recreation management software system. It was important that the software be web based not only for the convenience of 24/7 online access, but UCSC could not absorb the high cost of maintaining on‑site servers and providing the necessary IT support. An online system was the most affordable and best‑fitting option.
"We set a goal to hit $5,000
in online registration
revenue and last year it
took us ten months to
meet that goal because
we were not using the
system for a lot of online
transactions. This year it
took us two days to meet
our $5,000 goal. We were
able to easily move our
200+ offerings from our
recreation website over to
Todd Hammonds, Facility Center
The search committee did thorough research and finally selected ACTIVE Network’s campus recreation software. The solution included online registration and payment processing, as well as memberships, facility reservations, equipment and locker rentals, point of sale and more. “ACTIVE’s software really fit our organization,” notes Todd. “Our programs are student driven rather than profit driven, which is ACTIVE’s business model. It was financially more feasible for us too.”
After more than a year of searching for the right system and another several months of ironing out the details, OPERS was ready to implement the campus recreation software. The Department brought an ACTIVE Network team member on site for a week of training and then the staff completed an additional two weeks of virtual training to ensure that everyone knew the system inside and out.
It was decided that the Department would roll out the software in a multi-phase approach and on September 24, 2010, the first phase went live with online registration and payment processing, access control, point of sale and equipment/locker rental in a few programs. The software was successfully implemented and in January 2011, the intramural program began using the modules and ID cards, which were slowly phased in. Activity registration was launched for a summer boating program and finally, in September 2011, the software was launched in the Outdoor Recreation program. “Registrations for Outdoor Rec are the largest part of our programs,” mentions Ryan. “It was huge for us to roll the software out to them.”
Even though OPERS has only been using the campus recreation software for a short time, it has produced noticeable benefits:
- Integration: “Having one cohesive, integrated system is great,” notes Todd. “It’s probably the top benefit for our programs because we’re finally all on the same page.”
- Reporting on finances and participation: “There are so many different types of reports that show us exactly how things are going,” says Ryan. “We’ve never had that information before.” OPERS can pull detailed reports on finances and participation and send them on to management. Previously Ryan had to go to each program director individually to get their reports and collate the info. Now he can pull the data automatically from the system into one report, saving quite a bit of time.
- Access control: The campus recreation software provides data on student activity as they enter recreation facilities. The OPERS staff can look up how many students are entering facilities, the time they entered and which entry point they used. This helps the staff determine needs and better plan their operations.
- Email marketing: OPERS has begun to dabble in marketing via the system’s built-in email tool. This is something that is used with restraint—it’s important to tread the fine line of not contacting students too frequently while still keeping them informed of useful news and updates. Ryan and Todd can send targeted emails to students who haven’t been using the facilities to incentivize them to return, or offer seasonal specials. For example, they advertised registration for one program and sold 75 seats in a few days.
- Paper-free processes: “We’ve reduced a lot of paper,” says Todd. “Between registration and equipment check out, we had a lot. Now we don’t have any of that.”
“The campus recreation software has met our needs so far and I’m optimistic it will continue to do so,” notes Todd. “As we go further into the implementation process, we’re looking forward to rolling out more marketing and modules like facility reservations and outdoor rental sales. It takes time because we are essentially moving from a Volkswagen Bug to a Maserati. But we are building up our successes and more people are seeing the effect it has. For example, we set a goal to hit $5,000 in online registration revenue and last year it took us ten months to meet that goal because we were not using the system for a lot of online transactions. This year it took us two days to meet our $5,000 goal. We were able to easily move our 200+ offerings from our recreation website over to ActiveNet.”