Conference: Recreation Connections 2020

Before travel restrictions were imposed due to COVID-19, a handful of our staff attended conferences and trade shows on city business within Manitoba, along with Mayor Colleen Smook’s attendance at PDAC in Sudbury. We’ll be publishing the travel reports for these conferences over the next few weeks, but for the time being, the City of Thompson has suspended travel until we deem it safe to travel again.

Public recreation is a delicate balance in many communities: From March 10 March 13, Director of Recreation, Parks, and Culture Carol Taylor, Facilities Manager Steve Bloomer, and Pool Manager Sonya Wiseman attended Recreation Connections 2020 in Winnipeg to seek innovative ways to improve recreation opportunities in Thompson while keeping our facilities sustainable and cost-effective.

Funding Facilities on a limited budget: Cities are often tasked with running facilities that the private market hesitates to support, like indoor pools and large recreational complexes. As the cost of maintenance goes up, however, municipalities need to investigate alternatives to grants and taxation. Our staff attended a workshop that focused on alternative sources of funding for facilities, including sponsorships, advertising space, and more. Increasing advertising space in both the TRCC and other public facilities had already been identified as an easy source of non-tax revenue, and the workshop provided additional guidance in how to approach it.

The workshop also stressed the importance of recruiting volunteers and community groups. Volunteers are essential when it comes to running programs directly, but they also may have access to unique and obscure resources from around and outside of the community, including low-cost equipment.

Creative Community Spaces: The Exchange and Downtown Biz groups from Winnipeg also offered a workshop on how to find unique ways to utilize unused and limited space in a City to create communal spaces and gathering places (a project for later, of course). The challenges Winnipeg’s exchange faces are different than ours: whereas they must made do with limited space and greenery, Thompson offers considerable amounts of under-utilized space. Nonetheless, the workshop offered creative inspiration for future programs in the City, once gatherings are safe to organize.

Asset Management: Our staff attended a number of workshops on how to sustainably plan maintenance and upgrades to parks and facilities, including the City of Brandon and the City of Calgary.

Pool Manager Sonya Wiseman also had some one-on-one time with the team from the City of Selkirk, who are currently recognized as national leaders in asset management planning. They provided information about their successes from the beginning of their project to the present day, including:

  • Creating our asset register;
  • Identifying key partners in the process;
  • A framework for roles and responsibilities;
  • Policies and procedures that underlie the process

Pool Recruitment: Since the Norplex Pool closed, our Pool Manager Sonya Wiseman has been supporting the Community Pool Committee and helping the City of Thompson overhaul its asset management plan.

Once a pool facility has been constructed, the next step will be recruiting and training staff, including lifeguards and instructors, which often rely on students for recruitment. Wiseman attended a workshop focused on driving youth engagement with pool facilities, both as life-long swimmers and as professional instructors and life-savers.

Other workshops attended by the team included themes like:

  • Trail maintenance, and lessons learned from building the Great Trail in southern Manitoba;
  • Building the first school bike park in Manitoba;
  • Calgary’s approach to recreational asset management;
  • Capital planning/asset management for recreational ice plants;
  • Creating a vital signs report, and measuring the health of a community;
  • LGBTQ2S inclusion in sports and recreation;
  • Making playgrounds more accessible and inclusive;
  • How to communicate better with park and facility users;

“This being my first conference, I found it very interesting and educational. I attended many workshops for duration of the conference. There was something learned in every workshop that I could apply daily to my job as Facilities Manager, like the workshop on mental health in the workplace.  I was also able to review many new cost saving products and services available to recreation.”

Steve Bloomer, Facilities Manager