Dalton’s path to head up community event center started with work as a lifeguard and wound through jobs as recreation coordinator
by Jim Boyle
Tim Dalton worked as a life guard in the summers to help put himself through college, where he studied political science and public administration.
That summer job, in combination with his schooling and personal interests, created the kind of synergy and trajectory the Elk River man needed to become the first superintendent of the Furniture and Things Community Event Center.
He now heads up with facility with support from City Administrator Cal Portner and Parks and Recreation Director Michael Hecker. He also has an advisory board that oversees an annual budget of $1.3 million.
The Elk River City Council established a Multipurpose Facility Advisory Commission to receive community input regarding the use and development of the city’s new recreational facility, Furniture and Things Community Event Center.
Commission members have learned that the community facility requires a team and community approach.
“The Furniture and Things Community Event Center has become a beacon for our city meeting a myriad of needs for our region,” Hecker said. “The first year presented challenges with the pandemic, but we have witnessed many recreational opportunities brought forward enhancing quality of life for so many.”
Dalton couldn’t agree more.
Journey to post
The former Boy Scout, who became a good swimmer at Scout camp and played hockey growing up, went for the job as a swim instructor because, as summer jobs go, it paid pretty well.
He went from a swim instructor to a coordinator for Buffalo Community Education. BCE provided community recreation services for the city of Buffalo, and Dalton took over that gig when the person previously in that job was let go.
His boss called him into his office one day and asked if he could do the job. He could and did for the next seven years. The cities of Montrose, Hanover and Corcoran also contracted with BCE.
Dalton took to it like a fish in water.
“I always enjoyed working with kids,” he said. “That drew me in. Plus, I liked serving my community.”
The key, however, has always been the variety.
“I get to do a lot of different things,” he said. “If I had to sit there and do the same thing every day, I wouldn’t be there very long. I love the variety.”
The job in Buffalo evolved the entire time he was there, and he even got to work with the arena manager as an assistant arena manager.
From there he went to Glencoe for four years as a community education and recreation director and then he went to city of Shoreview where he was the recreation program manager for about 2 1/2 years.
Then he did another seven-year stint in Crookston with their community education program doing more recreation coordination.
Then he got the idea it would be fun to have summers off, and he went to Anoka-Hennepin Community Education. There, each middle school had a community education office who served as the activities director for the school year.
“They closed the middle school, though,” Dalton said. “I was the last one hired, and the first one let go.”
For the first time, Dalton wasn’t quite sure what to do. He ended up doing some consulting work for the University of Minnesota where he also ran some sports camps, and he also started doing some consulting with Red Cross on a training program for volunteers. He even took a sales job with Dave’s Sports Shop in Maple Grove.
The stars must have been aligning, because it was then he was hired by Elk River Parks and Recreation, where he coordinated youth and adults sports programming starting in 2013.
He was doing that when talk of a community center out at Orono Park surfaced. He worked on the referendum and found it to be an interesting experience.
He remembered a well-attended open house and saw it as a good sign for the prospect of the facility. But after it didn’t pass, he concluded the people he saw that night never connected the dots that there was another step to get it approved.
“I think they wanted it but didn’t understand there was another step,” Dalton said, noting people who wanted it needed to go out and vote for it. “That’s where I think the youth sports commission made a huge difference in getting people to understand what had to be done.”
Dalton says the future for the community event center is bright.
“Right now I want to get people to understand this is for the entire community, and it isn’t just the ice rink.”
The advisory commission has been responsible for identifying and establishing the mission, goals, values and ultimate vision for this community asset and use those to make recommendations on the operational policies and budget.
The Multipurpose Facility Advisory Commission is made up of nine members appointed by the City Council with representatives from different youth associations that will use the facility for both ice and turf-field activities (this may include the Elk River Youth Football, Flag Football, Baseball, Softball, Lacrosse, Youth Hockey and/or Figure Skating Associations, a sitting councilmember, and an ISD #728 designee.)
Dalton expects unique opportunities will present themselves, including chances for bigger trade shows, bigger exposition, bigger entertainment attractions.
The senior activity center has already started having concerts for it members, with the next one being Sherwin Linton. The senior center is not relegated to just the senior center spaces. The concerts have been held in the upper banquet space. Eventually, they will be catered, according to Natalie Anderson, the senior activity center coordinator.
Next week, members of the senior activity center will have access to the 30,000-square-foot turf field that is in what used to be the Olympic rink. They will be able to play bocce ball, throw a football around and do other things on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“That senior activity center is going to be a gem,” Dalton said.
Things like tournament pool, woodcarving and woodburning, bingo and exercise classes are already going well, Anderson said, with expectations for even more memberships to follow the open house.
Serrano Brothers Catering, which has experienced a perfect storm as it worked to prepare its operation, is looking forward to opening with a splash once the state finishes signing off on its plans. Marco Serrano’s vision has grown from the initial vision. City officials continue to marvel at all the partnerships that the facility has garnered.
Dalton sees the potential for a junior hockey team locating at the arena and section finals to be held inside the 1,600-seat venue sponsored by Cornerstone Auto.
“We’re not forgetting about the ice,” Dalton said. “We have a 1,600-seat stadium with (enough space) for 2,000 with standing room. We want to utilize that.”
Dalton says the magic of the event center won’t be realized until the building is being used at its capacity.
“The magic will happen when all the people can be here at once,” he said. “This place has much broader appeal than just an ice arena. It’s really for the whole community.”
Commissioner members have learned a lot since they first sat down to work on the advisory board.
“I think they have all kind of realized this is bigger than any one thing they may have been involved with,” Dalton said. “I think it will change the community. This isn’t just a place for hockey and ice sports.”
At 59 years old, Dalton views his job as the capstone of his career. He also admits he’s not really the retiring kind of guy, so he looks to be here for awhile.
“I like to work,” he said. “I like to work with people. I like delivering services to people.
“This is an opportunity to work at something from the ground up and that’s exciting.”