Last week, I heard that Ontario Place, a recreational park started in 1971, was closing. This saddens me because two eras of my life were closely linked to this attraction. I worked there for two summers while in university and visited every summer as our boys were growing up.
|1981 – I’m second from the right
I worked with 10 guys in the boutiques department, pricing and delivering merchandise to the stores on site. The warehouse was the first ‘man cave’ I had seen. It was located in the maintenance compound away from the public so we were free to talk, laugh, and play music all day long. The grounds included an open-air forum where musical acts played nightly. As a staff member, I got to see many diverse bands for free, including Blondie, The Spinners and Gato Barbieri. With 500 young people on staff, the parties were great, too.
One winter I also worked in the Cinesphere, which was the first permanent Imax theatre. My first paid public speaking job was welcoming people to the show and proclaiming the benefits of Imax technology – my first sales pitch. I remember the lights were so bright that I couldn’t see the audience.
Nostalgia for Ontario Place came early. In my late twenties my friend Dan, a fellow OP warehouse worker, and I planted a time capsule on site that we buried under a pine tree we bought for the occasion. It was our toast to a great place that sparked our great friendship.
|2004 – Charlie and Sam
As soon as our boys could walk we took them to Ontario Place. They loved the water park and rides just like the kids I saw while working there. I also smiled at staff members, knowing the fun summers they were having.
My most recent memory of Ontario Place was last week when I ran by the front entrance. It still looked great.
So what does this have to do with writing a book on change management? First, there is loss with change and you have to acknowledge it. Second, usually there are good reasons for making big organizational changes. Ontario Place has been operated with a 20 million dollar deficit for years and the provincial government could no longer justify the cost, which I support.Third, a picture of a better future is important to help people deal with their losses. A task force has been set up to look at options for the site. Without a clear picture of the future, the only thing known is the loss. This I do not support.