The new general manager at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre (LCLC) is confident he can assist the financially-challenged recreation centre in Bridgewater to become a more viable and appealing operation.
"Professionally it's a great challenge. I see it as a great opportunity and a great fit for my skill set. So I'm really excited professionally to get in there and help the team at the LCLC really achieve," said Kent Walsh, who takes up his position on January 6.
Born and raised in Moncton, the 39-year-old Walsh has worked for the outdoor sports equipment chain, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) for the past 14 years, starting in Calgary and moving to the Halifax store eight years ago. He leaves the position of manager in Halifax to take on the LCLC job.
"I think I have a great background for this position. The balance of understanding what service looks like and how to deliver on it," Walsh told LighthouseNOW.
He commented that MEC is renowned for its service. "And I think that's a big component of what the LCLC needs, is kind of tapping into the services they're providing and how to make that a really memorable experience through and through."
Beyond that, his business background will go a long way, he suggests.
"I come from the private sector not the public sector, so I certainly understand the need to be fiscally responsible, you know, and meet those kind of targets and make sure the customer and the end user is getting good value for what they're putting into it. And that they're revisiting."
MODL's mayor, Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, told LighthouseNOW recently the LCLC had received a number of applicants from across Canada from people interested in the general manager job. She said the LCLC"s board was keen to hire someone with both entrepreneurial and event planning experience.The municipality's finance committee recently heard the centre lost more than $25,000 hosting the Washboard Union concert in October.
Walsh noted he's no stranger to event planning, having organized various community sporting events for the company in Halifax, such as its Paddlefest, Bikefest, century rides and race series.
He was hesitant to discuss details of the financial challenges the centre faces, not having yet met with the centre's board to jointly decide the best way forward. At this point he preferred to honour "the good work that the folks that are still there have done to support the community."
Nonetheless, he was willing to discuss some of the general feedback he's heard from community members about the centre's programming, suggesting it isn't as robust as they'd like it to be.
"It's not as tailored that they'd like it to be. So. really again like working with the board to identify community needs. Meet those needs, and really get the most out of that facility. Because I think there's still a ton of opportunity."
In any case, Walsh said he doesn't see the recreational facility ever being "cost neutral."
'I don't think there are examples of that type of facility in a town that is cost neutral."
But he suggests that if the LCLC can increase its revenues and lower costs so that residents feel they're getting value out of the centre, "then that seems like a more tenable relationship than if they're not getting any value and it's a high cost kind of thing."
Moreover, he opines the benchmark should not just be a direct monetary value.
"I have a friend who's a physician in the area, and when she's recruiting other physicians, she takes them to the LCLC. When young families are considering whether or not they're going to move to Bridgewater, a facility like the LCLC is a difference maker, right? So I think it's short-sighted in some ways to just look at dollars and cents in the context of that building. It's an economic driver for the whole town and municipality," says Walsh.
"If you don't have facilities that are going to entice either young families or people to stay or new Canadians, then what's going to happen in the long term to the tax base and the economic prospects of the town, right?"
In any case, the job as general manager of the centre has been instrumental in attracting Walsh and his family to the area. Once the school year is over, they intend to move here, he says.
"Personally I just love the South Shore. It's always been the destination. We moved from Calgary to Halifax, because that was the kind of transition we were able to make at the time. But the goal has always been to be down at the South Shore," said Walsh.