The UC Santa Barbara Recreation Center is one of the most sought-after destinations on campus, drawing in a staggering number of visitors each day. The Recreation Center boasts three primary fitness buildings, one of which has recently reopened following renovations to the air ventilation system. In addition to a sprawling outdoor area, this Recreation Center is the go-to spot for all UCSB students looking to work up a sweat. Given the high volume of foot traffic, it can be challenging to determine the optimal time to drop by. That’s why we’ve conducted a comprehensive data analysis to uncover trends and patterns, providing valuable insights to answer the burning question: When is the optimal time to visit the Recreation Center?

The chart features a gradient scale that provides a visual representation of the Recreation Center’s visitor count. The scale ranges from blue, indicating a low number of visitors, to red, representing a high number of visitors. The more red visible on the chart, the busier the Recreation Center is at that particular time. (Jake Jensema / Daily Nexus)

Data was collected from the fall 2019 and 2022 quarters. Visualization of the data illustrates that the number of individuals visiting the Recreation Center varies from hour to hour, peaking around 9 a.m. and later at 4-5 p.m. 

Such information can be utilized by facility managers and staff to optimize the center’s services, staffing and hours of operation, ultimately enhancing the overall experience of visitors. 

“I have worked at the Rec for a year and a half and my experience working here has been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better job. My coworkers are awesome, the environment is always positive and also it makes it easy to work out every day because I’m already there working,” communications and global studies double major and Recreation Center operations assistant Jacquelin Groswirt said. 

In regards to the Recreation Center schedule, Groswirt said that it is customary to have two individuals present at the front desk at all times, regardless of the hour. However, she said that accounting for the times where more people enter the recreation center would be beneficial in ensuring that they have sufficient staff coverage.

Trevor Bagan, a third-year economics major, and Jacob Harden, a first-year economics major, are both frequent visitors to the Recreation Center who prefer to hit the gym at either early afternoon or later at night to avoid the 5-6 p.m. rush hour.

“Lately I’ve been going to the Recreation Center first thing in the morning, usually from 8-10 a.m., but on some days I might have a late start and defer to later in the evening after I’ve finished my school work,” Bagan said. 

Harden tries to plan his visits to the gym ahead of time.

 “I do a mix of both [early and late]. I try to make a schedule that allows me to go at 11 a.m. every day if possible. I just enjoy going at that time and there aren’t too many people,” Harden said.

The Recreation Center’s visitation is impacted by midterm and finals weeks during each quarter.

The pinker the color on this chart, the more crowded the Recreation Center is. Filtered data highlights the intensity of week five — midterm week. (Jake Jensema / Daily Nexus)

“The busiest time is typically in the early or late afternoon, depending on the time of year [quarter], such as during midterm and finals week,” third-year communication major and Recreation Center social media specialist Laney Chao said.

“I would say it depends not just on the time of day, but also what part of the quarter it is. The beginning of the quarter is usually busy, and midterm and finals weeks are less busy,” said second-year statistics and data science major Pesk Son.

During midterm and finals week, there is a noticeable decrease in the average number of visitors to the Recreation Center. Specifically, there is a reduction of 27 individuals per hour on average, resulting in a total of approximately 460 fewer individuals coming into the Recreation Center per day.

The heat map chart showcases the hourly amount of visitors at the Recreation Center. The intensity of each box’s color represents the visitor count. Darker shades denote high traffic, while lighter shades indicate a smaller crowd. (Jake Jensema / Daily Nexus)

The heat map chart reveals that the peak time for visitors is 4-5 p.m. on Mondays, with more than 300 people hitting the Recreation Center during that hour. In contrast, the early morning and late-night hours see consistently low foot traffic throughout the week. This begs the question: Why do these off-peak times have such low attendance?

“I don’t have the energy to work out when I wake up, and by the time my day is done, I’m too tired. Going in the middle of the day fits my schedule, and I have enough energy to get a good workout in,” third-year political science major Will Macy explained.

With busy schedules and demanding coursework, it can be difficult to find the motivation and energy to work out very early in the morning or late at night. For many, the evening is the most convenient time to fit in a workout. Additionally, working out during this time can provide a much-needed break from classes and studying and can even boost productivity and focus. 

Our analysis provides some information that visitors can use to their advantage. Avoiding crowds and scheduling ones visit to the Recreation Center can make a huge difference in the overall experience. By choosing the right time to go, one can avoid the frustration and stress of dealing with long lines and overcrowded facilities. Whether looking to work out, swim or just enjoy some leisure time, taking the time to plan your visit can ensure getting the most out of your visit to the Recreation Center. 

Alice Zhang contributed reporting.

A version of this article appeared on p. 9 of the June 1, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.