BY CINDY FAIRS
Coming full circle—21 years later, Tom Sprado, manager of facilities and recreation with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), tries again for the position and wins hands down to the other applicants.
Prior to Sprado, John Mackey held the position for all these years before retiring this past summer.
Since coming into his new job on Sept. 2, Sprado held the position of manager of parks, recreation and facilities for the past five years with the City of Kimberley, B.C. Originally from High River, Alberta where he attended high school, Sprado moved to various areas including Peace River, Fort Nelson and Kimberley before coming to Grand Forks where he now resides with his wife Margot. Together they have two adult children, Brett, 24, and Lyndsay, 28.
When asked what brought him to the Kootenay Boundary region and more specifically Grand Forks, he gestured with a wide grin, “This is such a beautiful area and my wife and I wanted to be closer to family who live in the communities of Trail and Kelowna—but not only that, I’d like to do some fly fishing,” he said laughing lightly.
With many years’ experience in managing recreation facilities, Sprado also comes well equipped with a joint diploma in recreation and facilities management and operations from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Mount Royal College, obtained in the early eighties. He later went back to school and got his building construction engineer technologist degree from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).
Sprado’s key responsibilities include the pool facilities, arena and curling rink complex.
Some of his other functions will be to develop budgets, book users for the facilities, liaise with the public, the business community and develop networks, oversee key initiatives, develop and manage staff and resources, and to ensure members of the public are informed.
His first few weeks on the job have been kept busy with meeting various user groups within the community such as minor hockey (Bruins), figure skating, recreational hockey, school academy (hockey) and the old timers’ hockey groups. He has also met with the school gymnasium users, as his role will also include booking public users for the drop-in programs after 8:30 p.m. which are now booked until June 2015.
Sprado’s plan is to meet with additional user groups early next March to negotiate space and time of the playing/soccer fields.
Listening to the needs of his staff and departments that he oversees, Sprado has solicited their input, ideas and concerns. He has started to put together a wish list of things that have been brought forward by staff—things in need of repair and that require more immediate attention such as better lighting in the arena, upgrading the deck surface in the aquatic centre and installing a dehumidifier in the curling rink. Suggestions were also put forward for increased programming and staff development.
He would also like to see greater programming made available such as gymnastics, mountain biking and tubing day. There is also a great need for qualified instructors, he added.
Having a master plan for parks and recreation with the City of Grand Forks is also part of his plan, Sprado said.
When asked what his vision is for the parks and recreation department in the future, Sprado said his immediate plans are to start working on a terms of reference with the city for the parks and ball diamonds.
With a preliminary 2015 budget of approximately $2.5 million, Sprado is also hopeful that he will be able to address the needs of Area C with the possibility of a pedestrian foot traffic bridge over the highway by first conducting a feasibility study, as well as completion of the nature park at Christina Lake.
According to Sprado, when asked about the biggest issue he is currently faced with, he cited a shortage of qualified staff at the aquatic centre and Jack Goddard Memorial Arena.
Without a full complement of qualified staff, it leaves Sprado in a difficult position of not having the flexibility to move staff around as needed, especially during times when staff are ill or away on vacation.
The new manager would like to encourage residents of the community to call him with any issues or concerns to try and rectify a situation, rather than contacting the Recreation Commission/RDKB board.
He welcomes input and ideas from the community and has an open door policy.