February 18, 2021

member spotlight
joe b
Name: Joe Bergquist
Organization Name: Lakeville Arenas
Address: 20195 Holyoke Ave
City: Lakeville State: MN Zip: 55044
Cell Phone #: 
Tell us how you got into the industry?
I think I was about 38 when I started in the industry, so it’s not your typical I started working at the rink back in high school story. In 2000 we moved our family from Elk River to the Pequot Lakes & Breezy Point Area, which was close to where my wife at the time grew up and where we both graduated high school. I had been very involved in youth hockey as a coach, board member and volunteer in Elk River and when we moved to Pequot I became even more involved with coaching and volunteering on both the youth and high school side, which eventually led to being an assistant coach with the high school and serving as the MN Hockey District 15 President for nearly 10 years. After leaving a corporate job in the cities I found myself with much more free time away from work and I completely immersed myself in hockey up north and I was always at the rink. Then in 2005 the Arena Manager position became available and I immediately without hesitation thought “I want to do that”. I had zero experience with regards to operating an ice arena let alone knowing anything about making and maintaining ice, but the idea of running a rink just felt right so I applied. I had a management background in operations and a good mechanical aptitude, so between that and my experience and passion for hockey and basically living at the rink I got the job. It was the best decision I ever made and I’m still extremely grateful to Joyce Bzsokie and Bob Spizzo for taking a chance on me.
How many years have you been in the ice arena industry?
Going on 16 years now this coming spring. I spent nine years at Breezy Point, then six and a half years at Ramsey County, and I just recently moved over to Lakeville Arenas a couple months ago now and I absolutely love it. It’s like being back at Breezy getting my hands dirty, while also getting to run the entire business and operations side of things. The people and hockey in Lakeville have been great, we have lots going with an 8 million-dollar renovation project currently taking place and other potential improvement projects in the pipeline. It feels like the perfect place for me to spend my final 10-12 years before I retire.
What type of Ice Resurfacer does your facility operate?
Zamboni 552s. Zamboni’s have been the only machines I’ve ever operated throughout my career. I had to borrow an old Olympia once, and l now ask this question before even accepting an interview. I am definitely a Zamboni Guy! No disrespect Olympia Guy’s but your kind of like a goalie, just a little different but still the most important person on the team.
What type of Ice Edger does your facility operate?
Electric Zamboni
What is the size of your ice sheet?
We have 2 NHL sheets and 1 Olympic sheet in Lakeville. However, we are replacing the Olympic sheet with an NHL sheet next year as part of our R22 change over and other upgrades at our Ames Arena Facility.
What type of floor do you have in your facility? (Sand/Cement/Other)
We have 2 concrete and 1 sand. It’s my second sand floor in my career and it is also getting replaced with a concrete floor during our renovation. I will not miss it. Not a fan of them unless they are outside where they belong with no refrigeration under them.
What is the best part about working in an ice arena?
For me it’s the variety, I get bored easily and need constant change & improvement to keep me interested and motivated. In the rink business you need to be a jack of all trades and I love the variety that comes with each different season. I also love running a business and managing a P&L and I’m mechanical and love getting my hands dirty, so it’s the perfect place for me.
Using one word, name one thing you love about working at a rink?
Nobody’s perfect in this industry. Tell us your worst experience at a rink so far?
I have 2 of them that both occurred during my first month in the industry. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t pack it in and quit. I felt so in over my head at the time.

They had just taken the ice out for some quick repairs right before I started. The ice had not been taken out for several years and other than one driver no one had any experience removing or installing ice, and he was on a vacation when it needed to go back in. So, the resort’s maintenance department had been tasked with getting the ice installed in less than 5 days for a company retreat and tournament that was coming in even though they had zero experience. I think it was Tuesday morning the day after my orientation down at the resort when I walked into the rink and saw three guys looking somewhat confused standing out in the middle of a lake with a 1in hose, no nozzle, not moving, just letting the water pour out everywhere as thick as they could get it. I might not have had any experience, but I knew that was not how to make a sheet of ice. I convinced them to stop and come back later after I had some time to call a friend in the business and do some research. By mid-morning I had all the information and advice that I needed to tell them that they should noy come back. Unfortunately, at that point we had only 3 and a half days left before the adult tournament to salvage it so we did not have time to start over and we did what we could. Long story short, we had less than an inch of ice when the tournament started. The cracking of the ice when the players skated was echoing off the walls and ceilings and it sounded worse that driving on a lake for the first time in the winter. The Zam driver swore he could feel the cracking and Am shifting when he resurfaced. I spent the entire weekend rink-side waiting for pop outs or the ice to explode every time the Zam went out. Luckily, we made it through it with no major problems other than a confused bunch of hockey players looking down at the ice at every game. After that weekend I signed up for every ice making and refrigeration class I could find that year.

The second experience came about 2 weeks later. It was a Friday night and the first group of the day was on the ice. The driver who was scheduled was a no show and out of town. I had yet to get any training on driving other than one ride along the day before. I could not get ahold of anyone to come in, so I gave it my best. I think it took me a full 20 minutes every ride and we were on a 10-minute resurfacing schedule so needless to say I was a little behind by the end of the night.

What are the first three things you do when you get to the rink each day?
Inspect the facility cleaning from the night before, check the compressors, open my email.
How do you feel ongoing professional development is helping you and your career?
It would have been a hard road for me without MIAMA, U.S. Ice Rink, ISI, & R&R. The classes, networking, and wealth of knowledge shared by these organizations is amazing and without them that first year I probably would not be doing this interview. There aren’t very many arena specific college or trade school courses out there to prepare you for this industry. Most of what you learn in by watching, doing, and experience so I believe these types or organizations and the development they offer is critical for anyone getting into the industry and wanting to make it their career.
How would you explain to the average hockey parent how the ice resurfacer works to resurface the ice?
I wouldn’t try, us hockey parents already think they know everything.
Career highlight or accomplishment you are most proud of?
I will always consider my time at Breezy Point one of our proudest accomplishments. When I started with no industry experience or knowledge, I was challenged with not only cash flowing the business but also filling the Resort. I believe the year before I started the annual revenues were approximately $375k or something around there and the main revenue streams were ice rentals combined with dormitory food and lodging fees from the summer camps. When I left revenues were somewhere over 1 million dollars when you included all the new business units that we added and our Jr team revenues. When I started the youth hockey association was very small and unable to host more than 2-3 small tournaments each year. Our first big focus and score was starting our own tournament business. We partnered with youth hockey to operate 20 winter tournaments and another 8-12 off season AAA tournaments. Within a couple years it quickly led to not only filling Breezy Point Resort every weekend, but also all the hotels in Pequot Lakes and Crosslake. At one point we were renting ice in Crosby and running 16 team tournaments every weekend. My goal was to create a tournament experience where every kid on the ice felt like they were playing in an NHL game. We installed a huge music and light show and did everything we could make the experience special and memorable for the kids on the ice. The Resort did everything they could to make sure the parents had the time of their life as well by offering a 2-hour free cocktail reception and free shuttle to and from the rink each day, which added a whole new level of atmosphere at the games with parents singing Sweet Caroline and other rock jock classics at the top of their lungs between puck drops. Then over the years we just kept adding various business operations to drive as much revenue and profit as we could. We took over the concession operations, added our own off season leagues and clinics, added a full service pro shop with everything except for skates, partnered in an Acceleration MN Training Center franchise with a skating treadmill that we moved onsite, started our own summer hockey camp business, and eventually purchased and operated a Jr Tier III Hockey Team.

But the biggest highlight of my career is by far the opportunity I had at Breezy to have my entire family working by my side at the rink. They all played important roles in the success of the rink at Breezy and I’m convinced that without them we would not have been nearly as successful as we were. My wife at the time worked part time running the concessions and later other operations as we grew. All three boys grew up playing and working at the rink up thru and beyond high school. Cory my oldest eventually became my operations manager helping me with the expansion into the pro shop and other business operations before moving on to see the world, he later returned and spent a couple years as their General Manager after I left. My middle son Kevin worked all through high school and helped run the tournament operations during his Jr Hockey days, and then worked the summers during college helping run the camps and dorm operations. My youngest son Joey was not left out, he started driving the Zamboni on the outdoor rink at age 14 (Don’t tell Joyce or Bob J) and followed in his brother’s footsteps working in all of the operations. Joey is still in the industry working for Chaska and has returned to school to earn a management degree to further his career in the industry. At the end of my time with Breezy my wife Dawn served as our camp and junior team nurse and my stepson Tyler and his Sister Ashten both worked in the dorms before we moved to the twin cities. Tyler is also still in the industry and works as a Supervisor at the Super Rink.

Working for dad while growing up was probably not quite as rewarding for them as it was for me at the time. After all who do you think I sent to the rink whenever someone called in sick or we were busy and needed extra help at the very last minute. They also had to work the shifts that no one else wanted, were made examples of when dad wanted to send a message to the other employees, were scheduled to work (if dad can do it you can do it) 12 + hour shifts, could never plan anything on a day off because you would for sure get called in, had much higher expectations set for them than other staff, and had to clean the toilets after every bantam camp ended each year because it literally put one young staff person into tears when she had to do it.
While it was clearly not always fun for them to be the boss’s kid, I think as adults now they can appreciate it and look back at their experiences in this industry in a very special way. The industry has given them all some very cool and fun memories and stories that they will no doubt carry with them for life and someday share with their own kids and grandchildren. They got to know and work with a lot of big name college and professional players during the camps and hang out with them at the end of the day participating in the late-night skates, laughs, pranks and even partying (which I was not aware of at the time). As employees they all had keys and access to the rink and would call their friends to come skate whenever the rink was closed or not being used. While working for dad was not always the greatest, I’m sure they will all agree now that growing up in the arena industry had its perks for three passionate hockey players. I was by far the luckiest of all and that experience was not only one of my greatest industry highlights but one of my greatest life highlights. The arena industry has provided me with a rare and wonderful opportunity to influence and be a part of my children’s lives in ways that few parents get, and I am extremely grateful for that time.

Advice for making it in the sports industry or for someone wanting to be a Zamboni driver?
If you don’t like cleaning learn to. Learn to live on a budget, the early years will be very lean. Be patient it can be a long road to your ultimate dream position, but it’s worth it when your doing what you love. And learn how to deal with and put up with us crazy hockey parents or we will eat you up. J

Who would you like to acknowledge for helping (mentoring) you along the way?
There are so many when you really get down to every employee or wo-worker who helped build and contribute to running all the rinks that I have been with. But there are some key people in the beginning and along the way that in one way or another either helped me, hired me, supported me, advised me, influenced me, or inspired me that I do to need to mention. I’m sure I’m missing a few and I’m sorry if I am, but now I have an excuse as one of the old rink guys with a bad memory.
My wife Dawn, my children Cory, Kevin, & Joey, my step children Ashten, Tyler, & Mitchell, my ex-wife Barb, Joyce Bzoskie, Bob Spizzo, Brian Henrichs, Shawn Chambers, Doug Woog, Scott Durrant, Jory Carlson, Joe Neznik, Erin John, Shaun Meinke, Bryant Syzmanski, Denny Bushy, Craig Larson, Jody Youngers, Sara Ackmann, Mario Montanari, Jim Welter, Bill Ross, Mulugeta Tekle, Ralph Pariania, Ryan Ries, Lisa Hanson-Lamey, Mark McCabe, Justin Miller, Dale Hanson, Pete Carlson, Dean Mulso, Travis Larson, John Haglund, Tim Hawkinson.
What certifications have you attained within the industry? (U.S. Ice Rink classes, ISI classes, etc.)
I believe I have the 3 original Star certifications offered and one other. I also always attended the various daily training and breakout sessions at conferences, which were often as good as the certification classes.
What is the best tip you have learned from any of the classes offered through MIAMA?
Everyone’s buildings and plants are so very different that there is no one right way. If it works for you and you have quality ice, a clean facility, and control of your energy costs just keep doing it. I also learned that if you were to attend the exact same class over and over but with different participants each time you would never stop learning something new because the instructors involve the participants on every subject. You learn as much from one another as you do from the course materials and instructors. Except for that one guy who raises his hand every five minutes to hear himself and impress everyone in class.

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MIAMA Member Spotlight: Joe Bergquist – Lakeville Arenas