CARSA booking system was a “disaster”

Campus News

“No matter the time of the day you’re trying to go, it just always fills up.”

Photo by Myles Sauer.

In accordance with the Provincial Health Officer’s Feb. 15 COVID-19 update, most indoor capacity restrictions have been lifted, fitness centres among them. 

For many UVic students, this news couldn’t have come any sooner. 

When restrictions were tighter, the Centre for Athletics, Recreation, and Special Abilities (CARSA) drew criticism for the booking system required to access the weight facilities. 

CARSA was previously operating at a reduced capacity to satisfy the PHO’s Jan 27. 7-square metre of floor space per person rule. This amounted to 80 patrons permitted in the weight area at a time. The pre-COVID capacity was 215. 

Vikes Rec Associate Director of Finance and Operations Michelle Peterson, in an emailed statement to the Martlet, said that 2555 students have purchased a gym membership this year. 

To accommodate these 80 patrons, CARSA introduced a booking system with multiple blocks per day. There were nine workout blocks on a weekday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. On weekends, there were seven blocks, from 7 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Students were able to reserve these blocks up to 72 hours in advance. 

Snagging one of these blocks, however, proved to be somewhat of an ordeal. 

Marko Jelenic is a second-year engineering student and frequenter of CARSA. He spoke with the Martlet about his frustrations with the booking system before the restrictions were lifted. 

“It’s basically a Supreme drop,” said Jelenic. “You have to be on right when it opens, otherwise you don’t get it. If you’re trying to book a slot at 4 p.m., you have to be on at 3:59 and book it instantly.”

Jelenic agreed that student schedules can be unpredictable, and it’s not always feasible to know what your day is going to look like 72 hours in advance. 

Students have struggled with this booking system since Vikes Rec introduced it in June 2020, calling it, “a disaster,” and subsequently cancelling CARSA memberships to try their luck at other gyms. 

Peterson said that to meet the excessive demand, Vikes Rec worked with Occupational Health and Safety to open an additional 10 spots on Jan. 31, bumping the cap up to 90. 

However, Jelenic told the Martlet that it may not have mattered even for the quick-on-the-draw students, as the Vikes Active Living site was prone to crashing during the sudden influx of users trying to book.  

“Sometimes it doesn’t even load and let you put it into your cart. It’s just a little bit glitchy. So there’s all these problems, and if you miss it in the first minute then all the spots are gone.”

Peterson told the Martlet that this is because their software was processing payments in sequence, and can’t process 90 payments all at once. 

For those who didn’t have high-speed internet, or the time to sit refreshing their computer on the hour every day, there is and was no way to get their money refunded. 

Student membership options range from $115 to $207 for a single semester for the basic membership plan. This meant that a student could pay full price for a membership, yet still have been unable to access the facilities during January and half of February.

As of Feb. 17, the gym has returned to full capacity, and the booking system has been scrapped, for now.