by Ronda Payne/ Special to the Langley Advance Times
It takes a lot of work to invite and host upwards of 5,000 people at Thunderbird Show Park for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup, but the tbird team is more than up for the challenge.
The team of close to 150 people ensures guests and competitors receive the best experience possible when at the show park, said Warren Kean.
He is tbird’s director of marketing and special initiatives,
“About 130 people work for us seasonally over the four busy spring and summer months,” Kean explained.
“And 15 people work here full time, year round.”
Considering the fact that tbird is 86 acres with numerous rings, restaurants, vendors and more, it’s a lot to manage.
Kean said the team takes care of everything from hospitality and construction to maintaining the riding rings and horticulture management.
It could mean creating a new visitor experience like the recently built vendor cabins or painting jumps to ensure they are fresh and visible.
One team member, Skyler Brittner, is the tournament technical director.
He’s been working with tbird for about six years.
“During events, I create, on a daily basis, the overall scheme of the day with start times for each individual class based on the numbers,” he said. “It’s the direction of the riders and the horses for each individual day.”
Brittner has been in the industry since he was in college.
In fact, it wasn’t intended to be his career as he worked in the equestrian industry as a side job while going to school.
“It was just a summertime job,” he explained.
Gradually he advanced through various roles and now spends about nine weeks of the year in Canada at tbird and about 25 weeks on the West Coast of the U.S. in similar roles.
Obviously managing horses and riders as well as the ring surfaces is a full job for an event as big as a world cup, but Brittner is also the safety coordinator.
“So in any emergency situation, I’m always on hand to direct,” he said.
He added that in his overall role, “there’s a lot of small little parts. I’m always walking around, keeping up quality control with the rings, making sure the rings look right and the jumps look right.”
Quality control is a big deal at tbird and as Kean said, comes down to service and the overall experience for which the show park is known.
“We run international show jumping competitions, but really we’re in the service industry,” he said. “Everything our people do is to make sure the horses are safe and that spectators and competitors have the best experience possible.”
Most of the team, like Brittner, have worked for tbird year after year, so they know their jobs well and have gone through training that can run from two weeks to up to four years, depending upon their role.
“Basically, there’s daily operations of the show of many different aspects,” Brittner said. “Tbird is unparalleled to anywhere I’ve worked. They get the right people for the jobs. It makes managing the grounds pretty simple. It’s a fun environment and the management and the people that you work with, they make you want to do a good job.”
Is there more to this story?