“It all happened really quickly,” said Madison Ragan, UARK senior and UREC graphic designer. “I was at work when I got the email from Chancellor Steinmeitz announcing that all classes were moving online for the rest of the semester; we were all kind of in shock. It really hit me when the rec center closed down.”


Virtual fitness classes

Once the rec facilities closed, University Recreation immediately went into developing a plan that would get recreation into the homes of the university community and keep our members engaged. Within a week, a YouTube at home workout channel was created. Additionally, 25 classes were offered weekly via Zoom, as well as a weekly Instagram Live class.

“As a graduate student working on my dissertation, I needed the physical activity that UREC’s online classes provided,” said Abbie Lasater, UARK graduate student. “These classes offered great stress relief in a time of so much uncertainty.”


Student employment opportunities

At the time UREC made the decision to suspend all operations, approximately 300 student staff were employed by the department.

UREC cleaning“Our students rely heavily on hourly wages to cover living expenses while attending the University of Arkansas,” noted Mike Hoover, associate director of UREC.  “With the department closing its doors, student staff were left wondering how to compensate for lost wages.”

A committee was quickly formed to generate remote training opportunities for the staff whose scheduled shifts were affected for the remainder of the spring semester.  The committee successfully offered 12 weeks of training that focused on career competency development, risk management, compliance, job seeking and other personal and professional development topics.  On average student staff were able to complete 8-12 hours of remote training per week.

“This was a tremendous success for our department, and much appreciated by our student staff,” added Hoover. “On-campus employment is a significant contributor to academic student success. It was very rewarding to be able to provide a supplemental wage during those challenging times.”


Staying sane and healthy during a pandemic can be a challenge. After months of its facilities being closed, University Recreation was eager to safely and slowly provide in-person services and programming again. While virtual group fitness classes and outdoor challenges were staples for many of our members and students during our remote operations, the sense of community that an in-person setting provides has been missed.

“I was ready to get back to the gym. I was also anxious because of the pandemic, but UREC’s policies and guidelines put my concerns at ease,” said Clayton Weyl, UARK sophomore. “I’ve gotten some of my old gains back since returning to the gym so that is exciting!”

Campus recreation provides opportunities to increase activity levels, encourage healthy habits, support emotional health, and help eliminate stress. Our mission is to empower students for success through recreation and wellness, and while our operations may look a little different now, we remain committed to our purpose.

UREC is taking extra precautions to help keep our users healthy and safe. This includes extensive cleaning protocols, enhanced operating procedures, and social distancing practices within our facilities. Returning members can enjoy the facilities largely the same but will notice some changes in UREC’s operations and protocols.

climbing wallHere’s what is currently available:

To create an easy member experience, UREC is offering reservations for the fitness centers, pool, group fitness, and climbing wall. Reservations can be made through urecmembers.uark.edu.

Members are asked to bring their own face covering, water bottle, sweat towel and member identification card. Face coverings are required in UREC facilities, except when actively exercising. Members who participate in mind/body and cardio/strength group fitness classes will be asked to bring their own mat.

“I’ve been using the HPER facility again for a few weeks, and I am so impressed with the work  that has been done to organize the space, direct the members, and keep us all safe,” said LewEllyn Hallet, assistant director for program in rhetoric and composition. ”The staff is diligent in the cleaning protocol, which is extensive, and the signage is so clear that it’s easy to comply even on the first visit.”

UREC COVID-19 Response and Plan website has been created to inform UREC members of the latest information pertaining to hours of operation, member and staff expectations, how to make reservations, and fall programming.

While it’s impossible to know what the fall semester holds, University Recreation will continue to adapt and be a resource for our students and the university community as we all navigate
this together- Razorbacks together!