From the Centre: Creston community complex offers users a great experience

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Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.

Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.

Overheard from a gentleman chatting with a building supply store cashier during a purchase: “My daughter came for a visit last weekend and I didn’t know what to do around town, so we ended up going swimming at the rec centre. Man, what a great experience! I had never been there but it was fantastic and so clean. What a great facility!”

During a recent programming department meeting, I asked our aquatic and recreation programmer as well as our head fitness tech what brings them to work each day. While your first thought might be perhaps the love of writing reports, hunching before a tepidly-lit computer screen or last-minute covering for instructors stuck in their driveway or plagued by the Norwalk virus, that would be incorrect.

The common theme tended to be the impact one could make on an individual, family or group coming to the facility — call it the happiness factor or whatever, it is knowing that you are directly responsible for or part of a team that is improving people’s lives. We are lucky enough to be one of those few workplaces that provide a direct health or active living service to patrons, as well as getting to see the benefit of our contribution, whether it is keeping the place clean or creating a specific program or special event.

A large part of personal gratification comes from hearing statements like the gentleman in the store — I key in on how it wasn’t just a great swim or great hot tub; it was a great experience. In my mind, it should start with driving into the parking lot, finding a decent space and well-lit, clean sidewalks right through to pleasant front end staff, a clean and well laid out lobby and directions, shiny change rooms and welcoming lifeguard staff. We haven’t even gotten in the water yet, which is sparkling and perfectly balanced. It should all be an experience, and when it’s a good one, that makes our day.

I look at the evolution of this place and what it has become, in many ways surpassing the vision what even the design team foresaw in the initial stages. I’m working out in the fitness area at the same time as a physiotherapist is working with a young girl in a walker, several members of the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors — which has an average age of 82 — are doing a half-dozen laps next to the large, bench-pressing dude with tattoos up his arm and neck just down from a bunch of 14-year-old girls on the treadmills and some Creston Valley Thunder Cats players are using stability balls, while one of our personal trainers details a rehab process for a client. Where else would you see that diversity of community in one place, all working on staying healthy?

Call my outlook Pollyannaish. I have always written accordingly — knowing you are fully capable of tapping into the opposite outlook simply by turning on the TV or opening a newspaper (not this one, of course). We certainly also recognize the impact of user fees, taxation and endless volunteering hours of the user groups that make the place function as it does. One thought that always sticks with me was not long after we opened, one of the more vocal opponents of the project came in with his family to swim and basically said, “It’s here now. We have to make sure it gets used by the community.” That’s our job — even though we have surpassed 150,000 patron visits in a year, we want to keep increasing those usage numbers, even if it’s one patron at a time discovering how they can have a great experience at the community complex.

Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.