February 2017 MIAMA Board Member Article

Why our industry is so awesome.

By Rick Ragan, Delano Sports Arena

Nine seasons ago an opportunity presented itself to become a manager at an ice arena.  The first full-time manager ever in this 17-year-old facility.  As an electrician, all I new was ice was cold and the resurfacer went in circles.  The job I was on was going to be coming to an end soon.  New career perhaps?  Where do I start?  Well as you all have figured out by now, I took the job.  A really good friend of mine, Jeff, from the Buffalo Civic Center had been in the industry for years.  Let the questions begin.  I took the job in August and had no idea what I was doing.  This is where I began to see how awesome the ice industry is.  I asked Jeff and Lee (assistant manager and park and rec director respectively) if I could come help them put in and paint their ice.  Well who’s going to pass on some free labor?  Boy were my eyes opened wide.  They let me get on the hose, work the boom, and do pretty much whatever I asked to do.  Without judgment.  I must have asked a million questions in those couple of days. 

            A couple weeks later it was my turn to do my first ice install.  Jeff and Lee offered me their paint cart (which I still use every season to this day) and to have Jeff come help me with first few floods and my first paint job.  How awesome is that! Jeff introduced me to Dale from R&R Specialties and now I had some paint.  Well, to make a short story long, everything went great as far as I remember.   That next spring Jeff said I should go with them to this thing called the MIAMA Spring Workshop at Mariucci Arena.  I get to go to the U of M and get a tour and hang out???  So sweet.  This was my first introduction to the Minnesota Ice Arena Managers Association.  I was hooked.  I met a few guys who treated me like I had been one of them forever.  Again there must have been a million questions asked by me.  Great time!

            At my next arena board meeting they told me I was required to attend the MIAMA fall conference.  What was that?  What would I do there?  Well I registered and signed up for my first class.  It was an iAIM arena operations class.  What a great class.  Talk about taking a drink from a fire hose!! By the end of the week my head was spinning but I was totally hooked.  Not necessarily from the class (which was really great) but it was the networking and all of the really awesome guys and gals I was so privileged to meet.  They were all so willing to answer all of my questions and offer up solutions. 

            Next I was introduced to Serving The American Rinks (now United States Ice Rink Association) that same fall.  Basic refrigeration was my first class. That class added fuel to the already burning fire and my thirst for more knowledge about ice making and managing an arena.  Again I learned a ton but that was nothing compared to the people I met from around the state in that class.

            The next spring I saw an email about elections for the MIAMA Board.  Could I do it?  Who would vote for me?  Just from the very short time I’d been in the industry I knew how awesome this group was and it was the members that made it that way.  If I wanted to excel in this industry I knew I needed to get around the best of the best.  Guys willing to give back to the thing that had got them where they were today.  Well, it’s easy to win an election when you’re the only person running.  I was now a MIAMA Board member! I got to meet more and more arena personnel and managers.  Every time I would get a little frustrated and think maybe I should go back to electrical work, I would have a board meeting or another MIAMA event and all these wonderful people would fill my cup back up and keep me driving forward.

            I can’t think another industry in which, even with so many rinks around me and in the state, where we are all technically competitors, and where every city and board is looking at the bottom line guys are willing to bend over backwards to help you out and make your business (and our whole industry) better.  Not once in my nine-year career have I reached out and someone told me sorry, I can’t help you. 

            We all know we are never going to “get rich” doing this job but how do you put a price on going to your place of work and not hate being there or put a sum on looking forward to board meetings, industry events, and seeing all the friends you’ve made over the years from around the country and world.  If I’ve said it once I will say it a hundred more times, this is the best industry on the planet and it’s the people in it that make it so awesome.

            I will conclude by saying thank you.  Thank you to anyone who has answered a question.  Thank you to anyone who has offered a hand.  Thank you to anyone who has loaned me equipment.  Most of all, thank you to any and all of you who have become great friends and colleagues.  Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!

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