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New general manager at Millennium Place

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Millennium Place has a new general manager.

Rob Schwartz, the former general manager of the now defunct Mountain World, will take over the reins of the complex next month.

"I’m really looking forward to coming back," said Schwartz from his Pasadena, California home.

"Whenever I thought of home I didn’t think of Montreal, I didn’t think of the States, I thought of Whistler, and really I was looking for any reasonable opportunity to get back that could maintain the lifestyle."

Schwartz lived in Whistler from 1992 to 1999. He left the resort to work for Steven Speilberg’s Sega GameWorks company, a large entertainment business not unlike Mountain World but much bigger and profitable.

He later joined Houston Restaurants, the number one privately held restaurant chain in the US.

He also met his wife, Patricia Triggs, while working in the States. Triggs has worked in accounting much of her career and has also managed nightclubs.

It’s early days yet but Schwartz hopes to meet with all the stakeholders in Millennium Place when he gets here to start strategizing on the centre’s future.

"Our next step will be to get together and figure out where we can bring this up to par as far as meeting spaces go without stepping on the toes of any other business," said Schwartz, who was hired partly because of his strong financial and operation skills.

"We want to make it financially viable as well as community viable.

"But truthfully right off the bat we will have to do some strategic planning and work with the group that is there already.

"I have a very sound operations background financially so I can run it very responsibly on the financial end, which is important as the money comes from donations and is public money."

Schwartz is excited by the expanding community role Millennium Place hopes to play in the future.

"I see it filling a variety of roles," he said.

"It has a very definitive vision statement, which is by 2005 to be the central cultural location, and I think there are no worries in reaching that goal. I think that a lot of people desire a place that is not just for meetings, but also fills other voids in the community.

"It’s not to say we are involved in any way in social services. But people are always talking about the soul of the community and I think Millennium Place has to appeal to more the adults and the over 30 in the community, who will obviously grow the community, and not just the seniors which a lot of people seem to be focusing on.

"I see it as a great place for groups like WORCA and others. In fact, for all the community groups."

And that includes, of course, the Whistler Village Church and the other faiths which gather at the complex.

"The role I see the church playing is as a central gathering ground," said Schwartz.

" For me, I am of the Jewish faith, it is all about community anyway so why wouldn’t it be a large part of it? The sense of gathering there as part of a church community no matter what your religion can play a large part without turning anybody off."

Schwartz lived in Pemberton when last here, but currently he and his wife are actively searching for a home in Whistler.

He said the lifestyle of the resort and the spirit of the community drew him back.

"It is a small town and a growing town and it has so much opportunity to make people feel welcome and comfortable," he said.

Like many others when Schwartz first came to Whistler he only planned on staying for the season.

"I went (to Whistler) for one year and thought I would ski and snowboard for a season and stayed eight years," he said.

"If it hadn’t been for the lure of trying out the United States I’d still be there now."

The Board of Millennium Place received 105 applications for the position after former general manager Rob Hallam resigned to take up a position in the US.

"Part of what we were looking for was someone who could manage this facility and it is complex," said Millennium Board chair Dr. Stephen Milstein.

"The person had to understand finances, understand the facility, understand staff management and interpersonal relations and other things.

"And here was a guy who, not only had it all, but also understood the community nature of the facilities.

"We are very excited to have him."

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