Duncan Sanders, CIT, RRFA
Manager Recreation Operations, City of London


What is one of your most memorable career-related experiences?

One of my first supervisor responsibilities was to help start up a newly renovated facility. It was a major renovation with the replacement of the ice pads and the refrigeration plant. The entire front end of the building was done during the summer months. I remember the push to get the project completed and the con- tractor saying it would be finished on time. The construction ran late and we had to install the ice while the contractor was still completing the facility. It was tough for staff to work in a construction site but they did an excellent job installing the ice and we opened on time. Opening day, the facility was only 90 per cent completed and I remember getting insurance claims for people getting paint on their coats! In hindsight, we should have delayed opening the facility until it was 100 percent finished.

Presently, we are planning on building a new double pad ice rink with a YMCA and library, due for opening in 2018. I have shared the plans with staff and have received a lot of feedback on the best things to incorporate into the facility. The facility will be built with many of the latest energy-saving ideas like building automation systems and refrigeration variable frequency drives. This has been the most interesting and exciting part of my job; to be part of a group that influences the design process in order to best suit our patrons. My experience as an operator allows me to contribute to the facility’s design so that it’s functional from an operator’s point of view. Every facility is a new work of art from the architect’s perspective, however, it has to be functional for operators and patrons.

What would you describe as some of the most significant workplace and/or industry challenges you have faced over the past five years?

Staff play a pivotal role in energy conservation. Saving energy helps the environment and reduces our carbon footprint and our costs to run the facilities. Arena staff have control over the schedules of the refrigeration compressors and the building automation systems. We set up an energy challenge for our staff at our 11 arenas to raise awareness about the facilities energy usage. The challenge was for staff to save energy as much as possible while staying within our guidelines for maintaining our arenas. We asked our staff for their energy conservation ideas and where they thought we could save energy. The challenge ran from September to April. Energy consumption (electricity, natural gas, water) was tallied monthly per arena and was compared to the previous year’s consumption. The arena with the largest total percentage of reduced energy consumption won the contest. All staff at the winning arena won a day’s vacation. The vacation days were donated from the recreation man- agers’ personal vacation time. Staff had fun with this challenge! Some operators were found maintaining ice in the dark with only the Zamboni headlights on.

How has your involvement with the ORFA affected your career?

ORFA courses have given me a lot of in-depth knowledge to draw from, especially when I’m dealing with operational or management issues. Specifically, refrigeration processes, terminology, and legislation information have been invaluable. I know this information well and am able to teach it to my staff. The information ORFA provides is geared to our specific industry in the public sector. I find the ORFA courses very relevant and constantly being updated to meet our changing needs. ORFA serves our industry well and helps us to be successful in our careers.

List any best practices or tips learned at an ORFA professional development opportunity.

Years ago I took my first pool course through ORFA. The material covered was informative and helped with the day to day pool operations. What I also found valuable were the discussions with other operators. There were similar and different operating issues amongst the group. Having operating challenges is a good thing, it forces you to learn and resolve the issues. Discussing these issues with other people gives you a different perspective that you may not have thought of.

The Facility library is a resource that I constantly refer to. I was recently asked questions about the installation of our rink netting by our facilities department who look after the maintenance and lifecycle of our buildings. It was easy to reference the ORFA library and the best practices section. It gave me in- depth information on how and why we use the netting. I learned about installation best practices and maintenance and lifecycle of the netting product. Our facilities department were able to use this information for lifecycle planning and to justify maintaining the equipment on a yearly basis.

What advice would you provide to colleagues considering teaching or mentoring within the industry?

Stay up to date with the latest practices. The TSSA has recently updated some of their requirements. Labeling and colour coding in refrigeration plants is a hot topic. The reason they want it done is for easy identification in the refrigeration plant. It also serves as an easier way to teach staff in the refrigeration plant. Join a Toastmasters chapter. If you are going to be teaching to groups of people it’s a way to become comfortable in front of a crowd and you learn how to deliver information in a well-organized way.

Know your material well and practice as much as possible. Everyone likes a story, share your experiences that people can learn from. It helps people to remember when material is told in story form. Final thoughts: Listen to your staff, they have great ideas. An eclectic group of people will have a wide range of ideas to solve a problem in a variety of ways. When you are challenged on something always take it as a learning opportunity. We are very fortunate to work in the recreation industry. It’s a fun environment that provides challenges and obstacles that you are forced to problem solve. It’s ever changing and never boring!