Carol Brzozowski 2016-04-20 18:41:47
Public assembly spaces often entail significant energy usage, and the Huntington Center Arena and the SeaGate Convention Centre in Toledo, OH, are no exception. The convention center is 366,000 square feet, and the new multipurpose $105 million, 8,000-seat arena is 260,000 square feet. With more than 25 years of experience in facility management and design, and more than two decades in public assembly facility operations, James “J.T.” Thielman, CFE, LEED AP, has learned effective and efficient ways to deliver and manage energy. Thielman is director of operations for the facilities, which at any given time may be hosting the Walleye Hockey Team—a Detroit Red Wings minor league affiliate—or other sporting events, musicals, conventions, trade shows, or banquets. Thielman was instrumental in the Huntington Center Arena achieving LEED Gold status in 2010, one of the first arenas nationwide to do so. He wrote and implemented the “Healthy & Green Cleaning Policy and Procedure” for the arena and convention center that received an “innovation point” toward the LEED Gold status. What He Does Day to Day Thielman wears many hats as director of operations. His oversight includes the operations department: managing the setup, service, and changeover of each event, as well as the center’s maintenance, security, parking, and environmental services. He also manages a $4.1 million operating budget, formulates and administers a 5/10/20-year capital improvement project budget, provides leadership to three departmental managers, 10 team leaders, and “dotted line” oversight for some 100 employees within a union environment. He works with clients, promotors, tour managers, and event planners; coordinates facility work plans; and selects and trains front-line staff. What Led Him Into This Line of Work Thielman’s background is in architectural design. He received his AAS degree in engineering at the University of Toledo, and then interned with the city’s building department. He moved to facility planning at Flower Hospital in Sylvania, OH, and then landed in the SeaGate Convention Centre operations department. “It was an interesting turn to combine the operation and maintenance of facilities and the event production of what goes on inside public assembly facilities,” says Thielman. His design background served him well when in 2009, he was asked to be on the design team of the new arena which was going to be built next to the convention center. “We were able to take some of the lessons learned from operating the convention center and apply them to the design of the arena,” he says. Case in point: the installation of four Capstone 65-kW cogeneration microturbine systems at both facilities which produce 260 kW of electricity and hot water for the buildings’ boiler loop from the turbines’ exhaust. “On most days, we produce about 50% of our electrical needs onsite,” notes Thielman. What He Likes Best About His Work Thielman says he enjoys “being the curator of the fan experience.” He and his team put in hard work to set up, service, and change-out events, all while maintaining a safe, secure, and well-run facility. “The payoff is when we see the smiling kids who have just experienced their first circus or Disney show or a high-five from one of the hockey players,” he says. “These are experiences they will remember for a lifetime.” His Biggest Challenge Thielman cites two challenges: one is continuing the momentum of sustainable practices and operations of the facilities for which he’s responsible. “This includes green cleaning, recycling, water use reduction, and energy efficiency,” he notes. To meet the challenge, staff and end users are trained and educated. “We continue to monitor our progress and successes and share those with all involved,” he says. Time management is another challenge. “With all of the moving parts for the daily operation of these types of facilities, it is difficult to carve out enough time for energy management,” says Thielman. “In today’s world, energy management can be a full-time job and is critical to the bottom line. We do the best we can to monitor and lower our energy usage so we can pass that savings on to the fans and patrons attending our events. We now are using energy profile software to monitor usage as well as partnering with an energy consultant for bulk purchasing.” BE Carol Brzozowski writes on the topics of technology and industry.
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