New GM focuses on service, corporate membership to boost numbers at The Centre


The new manager of the Oil Heritage District Community Centre is hoping some recent changes will bring more people through the doors.

Anita Minielly was hired in August and began making subtle changes, including working with staff to improve customer service and find out what members actually wanted.

Minielly surveyed the current members and found 77 per cent of the people answering the survey were from Petrolia and nearly half had been members for five years or more.

“The location, the staff and the classes are what they liked,” Minielly told town councillors during an education session Monday. But they were also concerned with “staff being on the phone too much..or behind the computer; they weren’t making eye contact.”

Minielly is encouraging staff to personally greet members as the come in. Coordinators who were not actively involved with clients are now teaching more classes as part of their job.

Minielly says there was also concern that staff in the wellness centre was not trained well enough to help if they had questions. Minielly says staff has been upgrading their training and she’s confident the people working with members are well trained.

She adds the therapy pool is now being used for therapy assigned by local physicians with one of The Centre’s staff. The service is so popular, Minielly says she may have to hire someone to help.

Members also wanted more stable hours during holidays and weekends – The Centre is now open from 7 am to 7 pm both Saturday and Sunday.

And they expressed concern about the recently implement non-resident fee on memberships. “One woman who was coming in from Sarnia said, ‘I’m driving in, going to The Centre, stopping for coffee at Tim Horton’s and maybe doing some shopping and you’re penalizing me because I don’t live here.’” So when the rates were restructured, the non-resident fee was eliminated.

The Centre also created memberships for people who might only want to use the Wellness Centre or the Pool with the classes in those divisions included in the cost of membership.

Minielly has also been dealing with some plant issues, trying to better regulate the heating and cooling in the building. Bluewater Power recently did an energy audit for the building to find ways to reduce costs for electricity and heating and cooling.

“It is an on going task to keep everyone happy,” she says.

And Minielly wants to get more people through the door. She’s targeted corporate memberships as one way to do that. She’s approached businesses with more than 15 staff to see if they would be interested in promoting The Centre in their business. So far, there have been seven corporations sign up. “We’re working hard to get feet and bodies through the door.”

Some of the small changes have yielded big results. The swimming schedule was changed to allow for more instruction time and the number of children in lessons has jumped 54 per cent since August.

Minielly vows to continue making changes to improve customer service so more people will be drawn in. “We want to change the narrative on how people view The Centre,” she says. “We have such a great staff so we’re focusing on what we do well and taking it and building on it.”

The Centre By the Numbers

700 members

$326,000 in revenue

Seven corporate memberships

5,423 children in swim programs

A dozen families given financial assistance for memberships in 2015