Growing pains continue for recreation centre

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The Spray Lake Sawmills Recreation Park Society (SLSRPS) has requested a $1 million line of credit from the town. Recreation centre are in the process of implementing a revamped business plan.

“We’re currently not very nimble financially,” said the centre’s new chief executive officer Blair Felesky.

“If we do have an emergency repair that is needed, whether it’s a heat exchange in an ice plant or perhaps the roof of the old Cochrane arena needs immediate repair, we don’t have the ability to deal with those sorts of things in a very quick pace.”

In a September 23 visit to council to request the funding, Felesky and SLSRPS president Hank Biesbroek highlighted the 2017 opening of their aquatics facility as a hurdle to financial viability.

“The last expansion was the only one not initiated by the society, and as a result I believe we were less prepared for the impact on every single facet of our operation, the largest of which was the tripling of our staff from sixty-five or seventy to in excess of two hundred,” Biesbroek said in council chambers.

“We believed at the time that the structure that we had in place could weather the change, but it did not.”

The SLS Sports Centre is co-owned by the Town of Cochrane and Rocky View County and governed by a volunteer board from the SLSRPS.

“Our first year-end following the expansion was an eye-opener to say the least,” he continued.

“One glaring issue was the fact that we would have to come to our owners for financial support, something we vowed would never happen when our society was incepted back in 2001, but one that became a swift reality with the significant change to our business.”

The volunteer board realized they would need new business and health & safety policies in addition to human resources and marketing departments. Biesbroek said the board made the “difficult decision” to replace most of their senior management team.

“One thing that we didn’t count on was that our new CEO after four months would fall ill, and we would need to search again for a new one.”

Last month, the SLSRPS landed on Felesky as their choice.

“Blair, during his span of twenty-six years of continuous progressive experience within the golf industry, developed an outstanding skillset as a leader and consensus-builder which has been developed and demonstrated at various board, committee and operational management levels,” Biesbroek told council.

“We’re up to the challenge of change that we’ve identified, and we believe we’ve got a really great team in place now to manage the change, direct the growth, identify the needs and solve most of the financial impact.”

The central to the board and management’s new plan is a new marketing strategy and a “streamlined” membership structure.

“We’ll be lowering prices in some of the categories including what would be the family membership category to enhance value associated with Spray Lake,” said Felesky.

‘We believe one of our great advantages is that we offer a wide array of programs, and we’re really trying to get away from the ‘silo effect’ of memberships strictly for fitness or strictly for the aquatics centre. We want our members to have a place to call home, to be able to access every one of the events, programs and parts of the facility of Spray Lake.”

Administration will now prepare a report outlining terms and conditions of a line of credit for the centre, to be brought back to council during the October 28 regular session.

“Our objectives are fairly clear: to evolve back to the self-sustaining model,” said Biesbroek of the sports centre’s cost recovery potential.

“We’re currently re-evaluating our three to five-year budget projections and in hand with our new marketing plan, we believe we’ll achieve ninety per cent in three years.”

The SLSRPS is expected to meet with Rocky View County on October 3 to assess what contributions might come from the county.

“Where we have come from, from one sheet of ice to where we are today, I don’t think anyone envisioned that back then,” said mayor Jeff Genung of the facility, which opened in 2001 as a single sheet of ice.

“It’s been a growth period, but one that I think has been needed and one that is welcomed and very much appreciated in our community.”

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