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ORFA Member Profile

Vikki Dupuis, Facility Manager, City of Guelph


In 2011 we experienced a major electrical accident that saw a contractor injured and destroyed our main electrical room. It involved an MOL investigation, the facility was totally shut down and electricians worked around the clock for a week but the most amazing memory for me was the team response. Staff were offered holidays since we were shut down but every member stayed. I was so proud of that team. They did whatever it took, worked wherever they were needed and never let each other down. Operationaly, we had lost two pads of ice, pool filters were off etc. and they all worked to keep the pool chemistry in check, removed the “slush” and then started to re-build ice from a hooked in generator but in terms of customer service they were exceptional…calling, greeting, explaining and more. Recreation facilities are critical to community well being, there is no debate there but even the biggest, brightest, most well equipped facility is only just that, a facility. Sure, they need to be exceptionally well kept and maintained but the true heart of them comes from their people. You either get that as a team or you don’t. This team does!

Our facility has a number of partners housed in it; West End Branch Library, parkwood Gardens Neighbourhood group, Guelph and Wellington Seniors and KidsAbility Centre for Child Development. Of all of the partners, the KidsAbility Centre is a partnership unique in all of Ontario. Many times since opening in 2001 we have been asked how this arrangement could possibly work; a community centre and a childrens’ treatment centre but it never occurred to us that it wouldn’t work. They are a K standard centre and their client list exceeds 800. This partnership has given these children more of a “normal” day when they are so heavily involved in treatment; they come to the library, maybe the family swim, grab a snack and then go to their treatment. It reminds us daily of the importance of accessibility and inclusion for all and sets an even higher bar on the need to maintain cleanliness/maintenance for all users.

What Would You DESCRIBE AS SOME OF The MOST Significant Workplace And/OR Industry Challenges You Have FACED Over The PAST Five Years?

The B certification has been a challenge at times. We defintely support hiring “B’s” as a corporation and at one point engaged a tutor and created a “B certification School” for a group of new facility operator hires as we require them to attain the RB1 and RB2 within a designated timeframe. I have commented many times that I wish that this certification was an apprenticeship in the industry because “ice men/women” are a talented group of individuals who provide major leisure and sport experiences to millions through their skills and due diligence but they remain a designation. We have put together an ongoing, rotating position that allows operators to gain qualifying hours and frankly, we’re lucky as a corporation to have a facility that can give staff the ability to gain hours locally but the process is a long one.

Facility respect has been and continues to be another significant challenge. The amount of budget dollars we spend fixing broken glass, removing graffitti, replacing smashed signage etc. is unacceptable and then we add in the cost of cleaning up behind groups who spit “chew” and sunflower seeds on the floors, leave dressing rooms full of garbage when the pail is in the centre of the room and it becomes frustrating for everyone. I once had a staff member request that a young boy come down from climbing a steel girder in the arena, he was about 15 feet off the floor when he was spotted. The parent turned around from watching the game and advised the staff member that he wasn’t hurting the building and he should leave him alone! These situations aren’t uncommon. We have the RZone (Respect and Responsibility) code of conduct for our facilities but staff face ongoing conflict enforcing it with patrons.

How Has Your Involvement With The ORFA AFFECTED Your CAREER?

ORFA is my go to! My BA is in Honours Recreation but opening the centre in 2001 meant we needed facility best practices, due diligence recommendations, operating procedures etc and we needed them yesterday! I’m in the ORFA library all the time looking for info to support a policy or procedure and we routinely cite ORFA in reports/documents. When I’m been really in a bind I’ve emailed Terry and John directly and I’ve gotten a quick response. If they don’t have an answer they’ll go looking to their tremendous number of contacts and that has “saved us” in a circumstance more than once.

LIST Any BEST PRACTICES OR TIPS Learned AT An ORFA Professional Development Opportunity.

I’ve always felt that the professional Development program every May was very well done. I still have binders on my shelf that I refer to from past courses. We have offered the SIRO workshop locally a number of times and that has been an excellent practice for us. Even seasoned operators admit to coming away with a better understanding of the operation of this critical piece of equipment in ice maintenance. This past ice season questions on skating aids and a surprise visit from the MOL had us going back to ORFA yet again to fine tune policies. A consistency in standards across the province holds tremendous value and credibility for us.

What Advice Would You Provide TO Colleagues Considering Teaching OR Mentoring Within The  Industry?

You cannot ask staff to do a job if you don’t give them the right tools, training or support…in order to succeed it has to be about the people who create and maintain the standard of excellence agreed to. They need to understand that their role in our service delivery extends into all aspects of the industry. I expect staff to bring personal integrity and a work ethic to their jobs, we can train/coach for the skill sets needed but we cannot train for those. The second point is that no one job is more important than another. The best programs will not bring people into a dirty facility, the cleanest facility will not bring people in if the water quality in your pools or the ice in your areas are not properly maintained…and no one comes if your customer service is not exceptional. In these days of exploding social media it takes no time at all for information to be communicated far and wide in community and you want to be sure if they’re talking about your centre it is good news!

Final Thoughts

Our executive director made a comment one day that recreation is the “first face” that people encounter when they arrive in our communities and I think this is true. They may be moving to town and want to see where their kids will take swimming lessons, play hockey, sign up for minor soccer and more. They may be visitors coming to our parks, local tournaments, special events...we are often thought of as “soft services” but if we could measure the quality of life and community wellness that we build capacity for in our programs and services I know it would tell a more profound story. For me it’s about the opportunities we create for all; I’ve never worked in anything but recreation, never wanted to… never will.

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