Vision to Reality

"From Vision to Reality" was the theme for the State of the Island Address last night at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre on MacDonald Island. Now that western Canada's largest recreational facility is 99% complete, it's so easy to forget the courage that it took for Mayor and Council to embrace that vision when "everyone was losing their heads, and blaming it on" them.

MacDonald Island had a monkey on its back for almost 20 years. As the C.A. Knight Recreation Centre, it weathered high profile firings, controversial renovations, operating deficits, and countless other bumps and bruises. And as the redevelopment project began to happen, it became the focus of derision during the contentious work camp debate, escalating costs, statutory closures, staff layoffs and scathing report cards from media, community members and leaders. The road to the Suncor Community Leisure Centre was not paved with gold, but with one pothole after another.

The momentum and the energy of the Suncor Community Leisure Centre has been decidedly altered. In fact, I would argue that the monkey that had been on the back of this facility for the better part of two decades has been knocked away and banished to another country, never to be seen again.

This kind of transformation doesn't just "happen". It is crafted, visioned and driven by people who have the courage of their convictions, people who can replace barriers with doors, people who can "look on tempests and are never shaken", people who have the fortitude to take the vision to reality. From my Council colleague and member of the board of the MacDonald Island Park Corporation, Sheldon Germain, who dreams big, to Nick Sanders, that board's Chair who passionately promotes every single day; from current Mayor Melissa Blake, who championed the cause through thick and thin, to former Mayor Chuck Knight, who hatched the vision for MacDonald Island all those years ago; these are just some of the people who can own a piece of this vision that has become reality.

I'm a big fan of leadership stories, and the completion of the Suncor Community Leisure Centre is ripe with them. The one that rises to the top for me is the story of a young fellow who came to us from a recreational facility in Bonneyville and before that, St. Francis Xavier University. Tim Reid stepped into the role as Chief Operating Officer and has built the Mi Team from the ground up and into a service powerhouse. It is through his daily leadership that this project has arrived where it is today. It is through his leadership tomorrow and in the days that follow that MacDonald Island will continue to evolve and change into something even more spectacular.

Paul McWilliams, Director of Development, shared a great example of Tim's leadership style during last night's celebration. "It was during one of our big summer concerts," he started, "the Dwight Yoakam concert I think, when we were all hands on deck and it still wasn't enough. Tim stepped in to help set up chairs. I told him that he didn't have to do that. He said 'Yes, I do.' That's the kind of leadership he brings to MacDonald Island."

As Tim stepped up to the microphone to share the metrics of success, he suggested that the ultimate measure is the reaction of guests to our community as they drive on to the Island and walk into this tremendous facility. And for the hundreds of visitors who will have this experience during a major figure skating event this weekend, there is no doubt a one word story will make its way back to Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Edmonton and Calgary about the Suncor Community Leisure Centre; that one word will be WOW.

This is just the beginning. This is a vision that has landed in reality and will blast off to possibility. As my Council colleague Don Scott said last night, "this is an amazing time to be on Council." He's absolutely right!


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