Canada Games Centre supervisor Bernie Van Hooft threw in the towel Friday, submitting his resignation to city officials.
The unexpected move takes place eight months after the centre opened its doors to the public, and nine months before it will host the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Van Hooft took a new position as director of community services for Crowsnest Pass, Alberta.
His last day at the centre is June 9th.
The move also comes two weeks after the centre announced a $773,000 deficit. The city had to redraft its budget just five months after releasing it to accommodate the shortfall.
But this controversy didn’t play a part in Van Hooft’s decision to leave, he said Monday.
“That’s typical with the start-up of a new facility,” he said.
“(The new job) is a better opportunity,” he said. “And we’ve got a lot of extended family in Calgary, so this gives a chance for my family to be close with them again.”
He also said he was overworked, logging between 60 and 70 hours a week.
“That’s too much,” he said. “But any time you start up a facility there’s a lot of work and it was what I wanted to do to make the facility successful.”
And he wasn’t given enough time to get ready for the opening of the centre.
“I was only hired about seven months before the facility was opened, so it would have been better if the previous city manager would have allowed the opportunity for that position to be filled earlier, as well as a few others that needed to be put in place,” he said, adding this did not, in any way, reflect on the present city manager.
Despite the budget issues, Van Hooft felt he had the support of council.
“One councillor was critical,” he said, referring to Doug Graham.
“And I have a concern with that, and I think the community should have a concern with that, because we have to be united — if problems come up, we have to try and solve them, we can’t be criticizing. The problem doesn’t get solved that way, it just gets worse.
“We need to be unified on how to operate, and that hasn’t been demonstrated.”
The city will review the position, and then recruit a new supervisor, said acting city manager Robert Fendrick.
“There’s only a certain number of people in Canada who are qualified for this type of position,” he said.
“We’ll try to recruit from within the city, but there’s only a certain amount of centres like this across the country, so we’ll probably have to look Outside.”
Van Hooft held two positions — one as centre supervisor and the other as team leader for the Games at the centre.
So the city may hire two different people to replace him, said Fendrick.
He said Van Hooft never indicated he was unhappy or wanted to leave.
“Bernie’s a real team player … He’s raised the bar in a lot of ways — he set new standards for operations and really helped us to get on board,” he said.
Van Hooft’s new job in Alberta is “the next level up from just facility management” and he’ll have a number of departments reporting to him.
“It’s kind of an evolution for him,” added Fendrick.
Last Tuesday, council unanimously voted to amend the budget to compensate for the centre’s anticipated shortfall.
It redirected funding and cut some operating costs.
For example, instead of directing 60 per cent of the territory’s grant into capital reserves, the city will only put in 50 per cent — making $520,000.
And it will increase lease revenue at the Games Centre by $100,000.
Graham expressed concern over the centre’s costs during last week’s council meeting.
“Doug’s a watchdog, and he’s doing a good job in that sense, and I think some of the things he said have proved to be right and we have to start taking notice,” said councillor Dave Stockdale.
Stockdale hadn’t heard about Van Hooft’s resignation Monday morning and was quite surprised.
“It’s not a good development I guess, but these sorts of things come along and we work them out,” he said.
“(Management) may be going back to other candidates who came in for interviews last time.
“We’re all concerned for the future of the centre. Time will tell; it will work itself out.”
Van Hooft was optimistic about the future of the centre.
“The community is so blessed to have that facility, it’s just a gem and there are no issues with it — it just needs a little more time to get organized,” he said.
“None of the challenges are what I consider insurmountable.
“I’ve had a great staff in the facility, and I couldn’t have done it without them. But it’s time to move on.”