Columbus’ new ice rink is all but complete and scheduled to open on April 29. Three days later, the city will begin to interview candidates to manage it.
At least two members of Columbus Council think that’s not the way things should be done.
The mayor says it may not be ideal, but it’s the reality the city has to live with. And, she points out, the position has existed for only about two months.
The city manager says it should not be a problem because much of the day-to-day operations of the facility will be handled by the Civic Center crew, which has been the plan all along.
“It’s extremely unusual,” Councilor Gary Allen said. “I think that’s one thing Councilor (Skip) Henderson was trying to point out (at Tuesday’s council meeting) -- that we have people who have applied whose resumes talks about all the experience they have, and we haven’t ever talked to them yet. We haven’t even started the process.
“It concerns me as a councilor, and I’m sure to others that we haven’t even begun the process to put somebody in place for the new ice rink.”
Henderson said more should have been done to get a manager in place.
“I won’t say I don’t think they should open. But I think we should have gone ahead and pursued someone to be in place at least to coincide with the opening,” Henderson said. “I was a little surprised to hear at council that we haven’t begun any interviews.”
Henderson said he expects the rink to be in great demand from the day it opens, and would be surprised if that demand doesn’t grow.
“But if you don’t manage that demand properly on the front end, you only get one shot at making a first impression,” he said. “I just think we need to have a plan in place, and I would have hoped that, that plan included having someone with experience in place.”
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said critics should remember that the council did not agree to create and fund the position until February, so it’s been just two months since the job was first posted.
“The city manager can’t create a position,” Tomlinson said. “He doesn’t have that authority. Only council has that authority.”
Council exercised that authority on Feb. 8.
“Remember the previous director of the civic center assured council there would be no need for an ice rink manager,” Tomlinson said. “So that was the impression everybody was operating under.
“It wasn’t until we got closer and closer to opening that the first suggestion was made that we might want to somebody to look at specific programming for the ice rink with the civic center director overseeing everything.”
Hugley said not having a manager in place should not create a problem.
“We’ve got the various people in place handling the specialized areas of the ice rink, and that won’t change even after we hire an ice rink director,” Hugley said.
The Civic Center marketing manager will also market the ice rink, Hugley said. The Civic Center box office manager will manage the ticketing for events in the civic and the ice rink. The operations manager will manage both sheets of ice.
“Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin and Civic Center Box Office Manager Lisa Cutts will continue to handle the management aspects of the ice rink until we put an ice rink manager in place,” Hugley said. “All the key people are in place.”
Hugley added that there is a misconception about the ice rink manager’s responsibilities.
“I know you keep hearing about how an ice rink manager needs to know ice,” he said. “Well, we’ve got an operations manager, Brian Giffin, and that’s his job -- to know ice, to put in ice. If there are problems or issues with the ice, that’s what the operations manager does.”
The job description posted on the city’s website says the manager will “manage, plan and coordinate the ice rink facility games and tournaments. ... Establish sound financial management including rental and ice rink use. Set up new programs; manage established hockey programs i.e. youth, adult, college and professional. Train and direct event staff. Provide administrative, professional and technical guidance to subordinates. Coordinate with the Operations Manager for overflow needs, facility maintenance and facility cleanliness.”