Darin Ayres, RRFM
Parks and Facilities Manager, County of Brant - Brant Sports Complex/Paris Area Parks

Please list up to three of your most memorable career-related experiences.

  1. Receiving support for and accepting the Manager's job at the Burford Community Centre in 1989 and remaining there until a transfer to the Syl Apps Community Centre in 1999.
  2. My involvement in the development of the Green Lane Sports Complex after the Town of Paris purchased it from Lafarge Canada as an abandoned gravel pit in the mid-90's. Today at Green Lane are two full sized soccer fields, a four-plex ball diamond facility, full washroom and maintenance building, a walking trail, a dog park, a disc golf course and beach volleyball courts.
  3. My involvement in the planning process, opening and managing of the Twin Pad Brant Sports Complex in 2011.

What Would You Describe As Some Of The Most Significant Workplace and/or Industry Challenges You Have Faced Over The Past Five Years?

  1. Staffing - when you move from a single pad facility and area parks to a twin pad facility or more and area parks, the effort it takes to stay in touch with your staff is demanding. I know here we almost tripled some of our staff numbers and with today's training and regulatory expectations, as well as trying to get to know your staff members a bit personally, it is a challenge.
  2. Community Growth and Patron Expectation - our community is in a major growth pattern and our small Town is no more. Our community is changing with new people coming in and with that can come the expectation for enhanced services beyond our normal or historical service, which puts a demand on time, staffing and financial resources.
  3. Operating Seasons - gone are the days when Sept 1 comes around that you start up rinks and forget about parks until mid-April of the next year. With the focus on an active lifestyle and our seasons changing where we can have summer weather well into the fall, the expectation by our users is that parks, trails and associated amenities are open well into the late fall. Although the demand is there for that, our resources are not and we need to do some planning to adjust to this.
  4. Regulations and ongoing changes pertaining to such relating to Municipal Health and Safety, MOL, MOE, Health Department, etc.

How Has Your Involvement With The ORFA Affected Your Career?

In any career, you should never stop learning, with almost everyday being another opportunity to gain knowledge. The ORFA continually offers learning opportunities through e-news, Facility Forum, Regional training courses, annual training session in Guelph, contact with ORFA technical staff and other numerous seminars that keeps us informed and up to date within our recreation world.

I have never attended an ORFA session without getting something out of it to bring it back to our workplace, share with staff and at least try to implement.

List Any Best Practices Or Tips Learned At An ORFA Professional Development Opportunity.

Personally, I have always found that any of the operational type development courses can give you tips on how to do our work better, more efficient and safer. Ice installation and painting tips I have picked up over the years, as well as ones brought back from staff that we have implemented have made our lives easier. Simple things like pre-marking a floor before you lay ice and paint your ice saves an enormous amount of time laying out lines; or trusting that texture in-ice logos are equal, if not better, than manually painted ones, are just some to name a few. The most current session at the ORFA General meeting presented by Eric Lyons will provide very simple and regular turf maintenance practices that will see turf improvement in the future. I still use information I gained from 20 years ago when I took Managing People at Work instructed by Lynda Pinnington.............the list could go on and on regarding what I, and our staff, have learned and put into practice.

What Advice Would You Provide To Colleagues Considering Teaching Or Mentoring Within The Industry? 

Be informed, be honest and be straightforward with anyone you work with. Don't be afraid to share your low and high points from the experience that you have had, as both and probably more so the low points, may have been great learning opportunities that you can pass onto others. In addition to verbally teaching and mentoring, also use practical resources that will enhance the learning opportunity.

Final Thoughts

I have been very fortunate in my career. I started as a rink rat at the Paris Arena in 1984 and knew in a short time that this life was for me. I am just about to reach 30 years in this business, and it has all pretty well happened in or very close to the Town I live in, Paris, Ontario. I am proud of that and take a lot of pride in the work I do and the community I live in. I have worked with, and continue to work with, a lot of great staff and for the most part, I come to work everyday with a smile on my face (no matter what anyone says).

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