Mike Adam remembers his first day as general manager for the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
It was July and the surface for the arena was gravel. The pool was a pit in the ground.
By Nov. 16, he was assured it would be complete.
He admits it all seemed a bit overwhelming at the time, but each day he would come in and talk to the different crews working on the facility, he could see everything moving steadily towards the goal.
But as the construction crews neared completion, Adam and his staff were only getting busier.
“It was a tremendous amount of time. Starting the last two weeks of October every day was getting busier as it was getting closer and closer,” he said. “It was 16-18 hour days for three and half weeks straight. All the staff were working like that.”
Some nights he and other employees spent hours putting in the ice surface.
“There’s a few tense minutes where you’re biting your lip and you’re starting to wonder if things are going to happen,” he admits.
But always the goal was Nov. 16. And that always remained the goal. When the day finally arrived, they got the certificate for conditional occupancy and keys to the building around 2 p.m. By 4 p.m., Adam said there were people skating on the ice.
Adam will never forget that day as he and project manager Aaron Bryant stopped upstairs to watch as a team of minor hockey girls played on the ice. It’s not too often that a minor hockey game catches your attention, but they were both captivated.
“We didn’t have to say anything,” Adam said. They both knew what the other was feeling.
As they watched the kids skate out and stare around admiring the big new building, Adam thought to himself, “Every bit of it was worthwhile.”
In the weeks that followed, the pace would remain steady with the first teams booking ice and the opening ceremonies being held.
One of the largest endeavours was a gala event held on the largest ice surface.
Adam said they really wanted to showcase the versatility of the facility and that’s exactly what they were able to do with that event.
With a hockey game on the same ice only 24 hours earlier, staff were able to convert the arena into a room suitable for a black tie affair for hundreds. The next day teams were practising on the ice again.
While there have been a few minor glitches along the way, Adam said nothing really took them by surprise. The biggest complaints people had was about the clear glass around the aquatic portion of the centre, which the employees addressed by putting up some patterns onto the glass that made it less see-through.
Now they’re into the day-to-day operations. They are familiar with the ice rental schedule and the regular maintenance required and now know what a typical day on the job will be.
“It was a lot, but it’s extremely rewarding to look back and see how far it came even from the end of November until now,” Adam said.
Financially they are looking OK he said.
“Our first month financials came through real well,” he said. “We were pretty much right on target, which was good considering all the extra work that went into it.”
He said their ice rentals are doing well, although there’s still more they’d like to rent.
“ We’re getting pretty busy now. It seems like every day there’s a call and we’re picking up a couple of hours for the rest of the season,” he said.
He’s optimistic they’ll be able to keep ice in for at least a good portion of the summer.
“It’ll be demand driven, but certainly it wouldn’t take too many more calls for us to end up having one sheet of ice in for pretty well the whole summer,” he said. “We’re not far from making one sheet worthwhile.”
For his own part, he hopes to now be able to enjoy the facility he helped see to completion.
Within the next couple of weeks he hopes to take his first skate on the ice that now lies where gravel once was and swim in the pool that he first saw as a pit.