Things are getting busy at the Provo Recreation Center. But after years of practice, it’s used to it.

“Ideally, it doesn’t ever feel that crowded,” said Bryce Merrill, the manager of the Provo Recreation Center. “We are playing air traffic control to get people to the right spot without having lines or things like that.”

The cocktail of cold weather, shorter days and locals hopping onto New Year’s resolutions bring the center’s daily headcount up from the 5,000 to 6,000 a day it sees in September to 10,000 to 12,000 on busy days.

Merrill said the center handles those crowds by making sure various groups, like swim teams or adults sports programs, use different entrances so they aren’t creating lines in the lobby.

Crowds in January and February always lead to discussions about if the facility should have been built larger or what can be done to increase its capacity, according to Scott Henderson, the director of Parks and Recreation for Provo.

The facility offered about 40 group fitness classes a week when it opened in 2013. Now, it offers about 180 group fitness classes a week.

“We are operating at a much larger number now than they thought we would be,” Henderson said.

That growth has led to the center changing its management style in order to accommodate larger numbers. Even slow days, Henderson said, eclipse the headcounts that other recreation centers can see during their busiest seasons.

“I think our standards of busyness have been a little skewed here,” Henderson said.

The center is seeing about 1,000 more visitors a week this year over last, which Merrill said could be attributed to the introduction of the Triple Play Access pass, which allows users to access the Provo Recreation Center, the Peaks Ice Arena and the East Bay Golf Course, and the temporary closure of the Orem Fitness Center as a new facility is being constructed.

The Provo Recreation Center is hosting high school swim teams who used Orem’s pools, along with providing space for other Orem programs. Merrill said Provo is happy to help Orem during its construction, and that Orem did the same when the Provo Recreation Center was being built.

For those looking to avoid the winter crowds, Merrill suggests utilizing the fieldhouse at the Peaks Ice Arena, coming at a new time or using the center’s app in order to book a spot in a fitness class.

While Provo has seen growth this year, things are slow in Orem, where the fitness center isn’t seeing its usual seasonal influx of visitors.

“With our temporary location, we don’t expect to see it this year,” said Karl Hirst, the director of recreation for Orem.

The city is offering an abbreviated fitness center at the Orem Senior Friendship Center and offering passes at half price while the new facility remains under construction.

Hirst said he doesn’t know how many people have purchased passes.

“It is significantly down,” he said. “We would love to have people come to a temporary location. We anticipate that as soon as we have a new building, they’ll come back.”

The new center’s pools are expected to open in May, with the complete facility anticipated to be completed in early 2021.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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