“The purpose of the Recreation Facilities Association of British Columbia (RFABC) is to promote general interest, education, safe operating standards, professionalism and support among recreation facility operators, Commission and Board members in the successful operations of arenas, auditoriums, community centres, swimming pools, stadiums, parks and other recreation facilities” (RFABC website).
Originally known as the British Columbia Arena, Auditorium and Stadium Association it was formed in 1948 to bring people together who shared a common interest in improving the operation of recreation facilities throughout the province.
In 1975 the name of the Association was changed to the British Columbia Recreation Facilities Association to better represent the wider variety of facilities being operated by the membership at the time. One final name change to the Recreation Facilities Association of British Columbia came in 1985 to help the Association comply with the requirements of the BC Government’s Society Act.
The RFABC has a long history of valued service to the recreation industry in this province. It has provided a tremendous networking opportunity for facility operators to access when they need help or are willing to share their successes. The Association has been divided into six zones and has held meetings on a regular basis to bring members together in pursuit of their mutual interests. As an interesting footnote, the Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel started out as the Alberta Zone of the BC Association before branching out to form its own separate organization. Both Associations maintain this strong relationship from these early days by continuing to attend each other's conferences, sharing resources, attending Canadian Recreation Facilities Council meetings together and the like.
Since 1952 the Association has hosted an annual conference and this event has been held in all areas of the province (along with one in Seattle, Washington and two in Alberta-Edmonton and Jasper).Topical education sessions have reflected the issues of the day and the accompanying trade show has allowed members to view the latest industry products and services available to them. At these conferences the RFABC has been able to recognize excellence in the field through its awards’ program and many outstanding individuals and facilities have been honoured over the years. In a spirit of cooperation, the RFABC has held co-conferences with groups such as the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (Kamloops), the School Plant Officials Association (Penticton) and the Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel (Jasper).
Over the years, the RFABC has provided many other educational opportunities for people wanting to learn more about the industry or to gain the required certifications to work in it. One of the most successful Association courses was the Icemakers’ Training Course which was run in nearly 70 locations throughout BC, NWT and the Yukon starting in the early 1980’s. Today’s course offerings have branched out even further to cover a wider range of recreation facility topics for people to choose from.
The RFABC has been a long-time supporter of post-secondary education as well. It has provided the annual Joe Dukowski Memorial Bursary since 1981 for recreation diploma students studying in a specific two-year program (the bursary was started at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, transferred to Vancouver Community College and then finally to Langara College). In addition, RFABC Associate Members (companies and individuals that provide products and services to the recreation industry)added a second scholarship starting in 1991 to help support a deserving student each year. In addition to this monetary support, Association members have acted as classroom guest speakers, field trip hosts, assignment resource people and Internship sponsor locations for many students. It is interesting to note that the last two Association Presidents are graduates of the Langara College recreation program.
The late Joe Dukowski
The RFABC has produced a number of manuals and position papers on some interesting and relevant topics as resources for its membership. These publications were distributed widely in the field with the hope that the information provided would help in improving the overall facility operations throughout the province.
As an important member of the BC recreation sector the RFABC has worked with other agencies, associations, advisory boards, committees and councils in a very cooperative manner. The Association has worked in partnership with groups such as the BC Provincial Government, WorkSafeBC, Technical Safety BC (formerly BC Safety Authority) , British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association, Curl BC, Hockey Canada, Hockey BC, Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia, Langara College and others to help promote and improve recreational experiences for the citizens of BC. One such memorable project involved providing the expertise and manpower to help install ice at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver for a couple versions (1989 and 1990) of the special event called Winterfest.
One of the best communication tools the Association has maintained over the years has been the “Facility to Facility” newsletter/magazine. The publication which comes out four times a year has been a great way for members to stay in touch and to be able to read about the latest trends and innovations at work out in the field. The format for this document has varied throughout the history of the RFABC with the late Dave Susak being the original inspiration behind the version that exists today. It is one item that members continue to look forward to getting in the mail or reading online on a regular basis.
For a large part of its existence, the Association had been run solely by volunteers. In later years, part-time and then full-time staff have been hired to help with the day to day operations. Currently, two staff are employed in Victoria to help guide the Executive Board in this important role of meeting the needs of the membership.
As a vibrant recreation association in BC, the RFABC is regularly looking for new ways to serve its members. It will be interesting to watch the Association in the future as it celebrates this important 70thanniversary and positions itself for another dynamic decade of service to the field.