Jim Bryson, CIT
Manager of Community Facilities, City of Stratford

Jim Bryson, CIT
Manager of Community Facilities, City of Stratford

Please List Up To Three Of Your Most Memorable Career-Related Experiences.

Being a member of the team that put on the Hockey Day in Canada event in Stratford in January of 2010 is one of my fondest memories in this business. The weather cooperated beautifully providing stunning streetscapes and a frozen river next door to the Allman arena. Ron Mclean et al held clinics on the river amongst others. How often do you have Ron and Don in a Junior B rink? The stars certainly aligned as the extensive coordination of the volunteers, staff and VIPs went without a major hitch. I say a major hitch because at 6am on the Saturday I was standing in a large event tent trying to get the space heaters to function-the ambient temp was low enough for the diesel to gel! Minor in the whole scheme of things.

Another memory is from another CBC event that did not go as well (at least not before the event!). We were doing the Anne Murray Christmas special back in 95. I spent the day painting the ice surface to look like a pond with Doug Moore and his son. Looked fantastic, unfortunately the staff member on duty overnight did not have sufficient training in building ice as we walked into a scene I have thankfully not revisited! As the story goes the show must go on! We recovered with some long hours and one less staff member. Was a valuable lesson.

Working to put on the Canadian Men’s curling championship back in 2012 was enlightening. The technical aspects to be absorbed were extensive but I think what impressed me the most was the skill and prep time put in at that elite level of competition.

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

When I started working in this industry I was an arena operator at the Thornhill Community Centre in Markham. Back then we could have rented the ice 24 hours a day and we would still get complaint that there was not enough ice available. We have all seen the lessening of all ice users over the past thirty years and a few that no longer exist. Generations come and go and demographics change over time. This is putting undue pressure on all municipalities to find new sources of revenue generation. When we combine this with the astronomical rise of utility costs in the past decade it is easy to see that something will have to give. Either greater support from the tax levy or we will see a reduction in the number of ice sheets available in the province. Technology alone will not stem this advance so planning for the future in our arenas is concerning to say the least. There does not seem to be a magical formula to sustain the level of service we have all worked hard to maintain.

How Has Your Involvement With The ORFA Affected Your Career?

During the first part of my career I, like many, just did the best I could to keep my job and hopefully impress my employer. After a few years I realized that I did not know enough and that while I appreciated all I was taught by co workers I needed to know the technical reasons of what we do. The ORFA enabled me to see myself as a professional public servant which I still place as the highest calling. To assist our fellow men/women to get the most of their daily lives whether we are facility operators, firemen, police officers, PUC employees etc... the list goes on. This understanding allowed me to not only acquire further and higher knowledge in the recreational industry but to seek new questions and to foresee what may come. While we all used to function as silos I know of no one who does not liaise with either new contacts or old friends with common challenges as well as goals. Many of these contacts come from my participation in ORFA annual and regional courses. Of course the lessons leaned from Tony Brenner are just as important as those I once learned from Stew Barr.

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

When this question is posed I always rely on document, document, document!! Many years ago, I sat through a seminar on risk which was held after the decision in the Lasalle case. It is now 25 years later but the lessons learned are no less important today. While my place in the hierarchy is different it is always documentation that allows me to go home to my castle without grievous concerns.

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

I think it is essential that each of us who have had the benefit of extensive experience makes the effort to impart that same knowledge onto others. Some things are taught on paper but there are many intangibles that can be learned through another's experiences. Those of us who are the elders of our industry today, were once green and trying to sort our way through as well. It is important that we not only ensure our staff are highly trained professionals in their particular field but are mindful of the needs of our users as they continue to change as time unfolds.

Final Thoughts

I hope those that are relatively new to the industry put the utmost effort into their education. Not only at the start but throughout their careers. I have a quote in front of my desk. It was placed there by myself years ago but holds just as true today as then "It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction" (Pablo Picasso) Why else would Thornhill seem like yesterday!

In this section