The new leisure services manager has spent the past two weeks getting settled into his new post, with his sights on maximizing the potential of the Energy City’s recreational facilities.
Brad Gilbert is the latest edition to the City of Estevan team, working out of the Souris Valley Aquatic and Leisure Centre beginning on June 11.
Gilbert is a native of Peterborough, Ont. He attended MacMaster University earning a major in physical education and minoring in business and economics. He then went to Durham College for a post-diploma in sport administration and has worked as a facility operator for the City of Toronto, a programmer with RIM Park at the City of Waterloo and spent time as the facility operations community services manager at Sioux Lookout. He was a manager of recreation at Grande Prairie before last stopping at the University of Guelph, acting as a supervisor for their twin-pad facility.
Coming now to Estevan he said, “All I had to do was look at Spectra Place, and it’s like, ‘wow.’ A community of this size with a facility of that magnitude, it’s the centerpiece perhaps, but it’s not the only piece.”
He noted the leisure centre includes not only Spectra Place, but also the aquatic centre, another ice pad at the newly named Icon Centre, the fitness facilities and more.
“There’s the nice cultural aspect, not that I’m in charge of the arts council or the library, but this whole little property, and even with the exhibition grounds beside it, really becomes a social, cultural and recreational hub for the entire community.”
In terms of the future for Estevan’s facilities, Gilbert said the key is to research what the community has a particular hunger for.
“It’s the whole marketing process. It’s going out and doing your market research, getting in touch with not just your current users but also your potential users.”
He wants to go to the community to see if there is a demand for beach volleyball, indoor soccer or ultimate Frisbee. He noted there is a fairly large trail system, so asking if there is any demand for something like a Frisbee golf course is something they may canvass.
Gilbert, himself, plays a number of sports, just for the love of getting out and staying active. He said at one of his jobs, a friend of his finally got him out playing squash, and he’s gotten together with a group to play flag football for pick-up games in a spare field.
“You name it, I’ve pretty much played it or would be willing to play it.”
Given his position heading the leisure and recreational services in a community, he does consider it part of the job to be active and use the facilities he oversees.
“I’ve seen in the industry that you’re sort of the health representative. I think it’s important that staff portray that fit appearance, just so it reinforces the mandate of any leisure services or parks and recreation mandate, which is to build a healthy community, and be positive role models.”
He also wants to make sure the facilities are taking advantage of current technology in order to be as cost-efficient as possible.
“We have a very large roof space on this facility and the curling rink. Can we not look into water recapture, and bring that water back in as grey water for urinals or for watering flowers for our parks, instead of putting added capacity on the strong water system, which would just cost another department more money?”
Some thinking outside of the box may be in order, but for some things Gilbert may just need to look at his cellphone to see what else they can be doing to cuts costs.
“Using technologies now that are available as an app, where you can control your lights even if you’re off-site or your irrigation system even when you’re off-site.”
That cuts down on managers having to travel to a site in order to turn off and on different systems.
With the implementation of some of these technologies, really the only question is money, he said. After the initial cost, five to 10 years down the road, the annual operational savings make up for it.
He noted the heat reclamation system already in use at Spectra Place is a great start. The system works by drawing the heat out of the floor, and the rest of the building, so they recapture that energy to heat the domestic hot water and the water for the pool.
“That’s one of the things I’d like to monitor. Is our energy cost for the pool, is it coming down compared to in the previous years, because we’re pre-heating that water with waste heat from the refrigeration plant?”
Gilbert is starting to get to know some of the facility users, like the Estevan Bruins, who have an office in the same building, and the synchronized swimmers. He wants everyone who uses the facilities to know that he’s available to chat and see what can be done better or added.
“My door’s always open. If there is any user group, or even fitness members who want to introduce themselves, by all means, feel free to come in and give me a lowdown of what their programs are and what they want to see.”