Employee AARC fee erased, overall use up

By , Reporter  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 5:30 PM
Students getting in a mid-day work out at the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. AARC amenities became available for faculty members this past summer. (Luke Moe/TommieMedia)

Students getting in a mid-day work out at the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. AARC amenities became available for faculty members this past summer. (Luke Moe/TommieMedia)

Since memberships to the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex became free for faculty and staff on June 1, AARC personnel said they have seen an increase in employee participation.

The AARC has always been free to students, but in past semesters, faculty and staff had to pay a $30 monthly membership fee and had to visit at least 12 times a month for health insurance-based rebates.

Now that the membership is free, men’s hockey coach Jeff Boeser, who manages the faculty and staff locker assignments, said the men’s locker room is at full capacity while about 85 percent of the women’s lockers are in use.

Senior Bailey Fischer has been a student employee at the AARC since the fall of 2010 and said she has “definitely seen an increase in the number of faculty since (the facilities) became free.”

“There’s definitely been a lot more faculty coming up to the front desk asking where the locker rooms and such, so I know there’s been an increase in faculty participating in the AARC,” Fischer said.

Deborah Sagstetter, Human Resources’ rewards and recognition manager, said eliminating the fee and visit requirement helps support and encourage employee fitness goals and allows flexibility.

“Now (fulltime and part-time staff) can use it once a month, 15 times a month, any time in between, and it’s free. The best way to encourage fitness goals is by not having cost as a barrier,” Sagstetter said.

Sagstetter said faculty and staff members’ activity in the AARC will feed into the new three-part Vitality program, which rewards employees on a point-based system for their fitness activities. Employees can use Vitality to set personalized health goals and receive rewards that range from movie tickets to Ipads.

Along with the free AARC membership and the Vitality program, the university formed a new employee wellness committee to promote, recommend, and put on additional wellness programs throughout the year.

Sociology professor Susan Smith-Cunnien said the old membership cost deterred her from exercising in the AARC.

“Now that it’s free all the time, I will probably start going again,” Smith-Cunnien said.

But some AARC users didn’t jump at the chance of a free membership. Professor Paul Wojda said he will continue to use the Minneapolis YWCA in addition to the AARC.

“I joined the (YWCA) and continue to belong, for one basic reason: it is a very family friendly place,” Wojda said. “(Minneapolis YWCA) also have more congenial hours, a few more amenities, and a more diverse clientele.”

Senior Devin Braatz said he thinks faculty should have always been able to use the facility for free.

“(Faculty) are part of the UST family, too,” Braatz said.

Sophomore Jessy Erspamer said she would still feel a little strange working out next to a professor.

“It would be a little awkward seeing professors working out right next to me. It doesn’t offend me by any means, but I would prefer to work out at time when they aren’t there,” Erspamer said.

Luke Moe can be reached at moe95234@stthomas.edu.

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