Program Spotlight – University of Wisconsin – River Falls

Institution: University of Wisconsin – River Falls

Program Area: Outdoor Recreation

Program Name: Falcon Outdoor Adventures

About the event/program:

How long have you be hosting this program/offering this service?

  • Falcon Outdoor Adventures has been an official part of the Campus Recreation program since 2010, however UWRF has rented outdoor equipment to students since 1999.

How did this program/service begin?

  • In 1999, the Student Involvement Department, wanted to add an outdoor component to its programming offerings and hired Lance Ross, a former UWRF student to coordinate intramural and sport club programs. Lance brought knowledge and expertise in outdoors and immediately started researching other outdoor programs and trip opportunities with the intention to launch UWRF’s first outdoor program.   The outdoor program was born and its programs and services were a welcomed addition to the campus community.  It was especially appreciated by the Bushwackers Student Organization, as it complimented their club and helped to meet their goals to be active in the outdoors.   Lance was able to commandeer space in the basement of a residence hall to store and rent outdoor gear.  The program was named Kinni Connections named after the Kinnickinnic River, a Class 1 trout stream that flows just west of campus. The tagline was “Your Connection to the Outdoors. “Originally, the rental center had mainly camping and climbing equipment. Kinni Connections operated as a trip program and rental center until 2004 when Lance departed the university. 
  • The program was stagnant from 2004-2007, but in 2008 the Campus Recreation Programs and Rec. and Athletic Facilities department were merged under the leadership of Steve Stocker, Director. Recreation and Sport Facilities.  Student leaders lobbied the student government to fund a dedicated segregated for outdoor programming and rental equipment.  The student senate made two commitments.  The first being startup funds to purchase storage systems and additional equipment and secondly a dedicated Seg. Fee to fund Outdoor Recreation for sustainable programming and equipment replacement.  More camping gear was purchased, however other items like bag toss, fishing poles, bicycles, inline skates, golf clubs, sleds, tubes and Frisbees were also added to Kinni Connections to encourage all students to be active outdoors.
  • In 2010, the rental program was re-established as Kinni Outdoor Adventures. It was housed in a storage room in the field house, the program was expanded to include additional equipment, regional trip programming and climbing.  The program was student led from 2008-2013.
  • In 2013 a part-time coordinator was added to lead the program and it started to gain some real momentum.
  • Once again the name was rebranded in 2014 to Falcon Outdoor Adventures, along with the addition of a full time outdoor recreation coordinator position created to facilitate the success of the program. Today, Falcon Outdoor Adventures is located in the brand new Falcon Center and boasts a bouldering wall, climbing wall, trip program fully equipped rental center offering free weekly rentals of outdoor gear to students.

When planning this program/implementing this service, what are some considerations?

  • The most significant consideration was ensuring leadership of the program, securing sustainable funding and determining a location with high visibility.   Another concern was versatility of equipment; having rental options for all four seasons is necessary for any rental center in the Midwest.

What is your favorite part about this event/service?

  • What defines the Falcon Outdoor Adventures Rental Center is the equipment rental costs are included into the student’s tuition and fees. As a result, full-time students can rent gear for free for up to a week. Any student could fully outfit any outdoor expedition at little to no cost.  The other distinguishing feature is the equipment is available to the community to rent, which helps with maintenance and replacement expenses. 

If another university/institution were to host this event or start this service at their university/institution, what is a piece of advice you would give them?

  • When planning any program, it is important to research and benchmark what other universities are doing. It is also very important to listen to your students and see what they want to do.  Research other programs that are thriving in the region and how you may implement them on your campus.  Make sure you work with university police and risk management to mitigate risk and make sure you are following university policies.  From there, be sure to analyze and know your costs comparative to your budget. It is also important to anticipate for replacement costs of gear down the road by either working those costs into a budget or projecting revenue to cover those replacement costs. Lastly, make sure to market your rental center to the student population and make it known what services you offer to them.

Additional comments and information

  • Falcon Outdoor Adventures is the product of countless hours of hard work and dedication from a number of people. It would not be what it is today without the following individuals….Vicki Hajewski, Former Director Intramurals, Lance Ross, IM Sports, Sport Clubs, Outdoor Recreation Coordinator, Colleen Kopel, UWRF Recreation and Sport Facilities Committee Student Chair, Steve Stocker, Director, Campus Recreation, Charlie Sowa, Assistant Director of Recreation and Sport Facilities, Shaun Vass, Kinni Outdoor Student Manager, Joel Selhoff, Kinni Outdoor Student Manager,  Ryan McCallum, (former) Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, Tiffany Gaulke, (former) Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Dr. Mike Hoover, Outdoor Rec. Coordinator,  Travis Roy, Falcon Outdoor Adventures Coordinator and Jake Brunnquell, Falcon Outdoor Adventures Coordinator.