I’d sent an email to one of my operations buddies in New England the other day, just to find that he was away at the North East Ice Skating Managers Association‘s annual conference. I took a look around their website and found they had quite a few job postings for operations personnel on their site and it made me wonder: how does an ownership group goes about finding operations people for a new build?
So I started looking for the person who might be able to best answer that question. And I think I found him.
Some people call Dave Wescott “The Ice Guru” and there’s a good reason for that. Wescott knows ice. He may have had humble beginnings, working in an arena part-time as a 17-year-old, but today he’s part of All Star Arenas, a consulting group that helps with everything from expert testimony to retrofit advice. Wescott, who worked for STAR (Serving the American Rinks) for 12 years as the Director of Facility Services, helped design and implement their training and certification programs for both operations and management personnel, and still contributes with instructional materials for their training program. He’s been the Ice Technician for two Olympics (Salt Lake and Torino), a couple World Figure Skating Championships and was, most recently, present at the U18 World Championships held at the University of North Dakota’s ice rink facilities to help them maintain their ice through the extremely heavy usage encountered through that 10-day long tournament.
I always thought that if I could make good ice in Florida, I can make good ice anywhere…
– Dave Wescott
Based in Florida, Wescott called me from the airport in Detroit, with a couple of hours to kill before his next flight to Boston. Articulate and friendly, he began to outline what ownership groups need to do.
“I’ve helped ownership groups with everything from the ads they end up posting and even with the interviews. Sometimes they’re wise enough to know they don’t know how to hire, so finding someone comfortable to help them with that hiring is a plus,” he says.
For those who want to do it on their own, Wescott says they need to take a good look at their facility and its requirements so you don’t under specify the kind of people you need, or over-specify for them either.
“Hopefully the management group with their planning understands exactly what they’re buying and understands the level of expertise needed to operate the facility properly. Many groups don’t do that very well. Understand what it is you’re going to have, and hire for that configuration.”
As for when to bring someone in, Wescott recommends they be in-place at three to six months before the facility is ready to open its doors.
“Three months is really the minimum. That’s so they know all the systems and all the people who have been involved in the installation of all the equipment. There’s nothing more valuable than having someone who knows where all the pipes and everything else is within the building.”
Wescott, who spent two seasons as the Ice Technician for the Carolina Hurricanes, says finding a C.I.T. – a Certified Ice Technician – can be tough.
“The best people already have a job,” he tells me.
Wescott tells me that with a team in place, one of the continuous goals of an ownership group needs to be to keep that team trained.
“I’ve heard management say, ‘We’re not going to send them to training. They’ll just leave us and go somewhere else’. Whenever I hear some jerk say that, I think about something ORFA’s Tony Brenner says: ‘It’s so much better to train someone and take the chance on them leaving then not training them — and having them stay.'” Wescott says that the Zamboni driver will someday be the next rink manager, and you can only do that with training.
Wescott says because of STAR and other groups like it, operations people get to know each other in trainings and can call on each other to help each other out.
“For example, in Florida,” he tells me, “everything is private. The ownership groups are pretty competitive, and if you asked the owners to help out with spare parts, you’re probably going to get a NO! With STAR, we see a lot of cooperation from the guys in the back, helping each other out.
All Star Arenas