As a child, Roger Soane dreamed of a professional sports career.
Like many childhood dreams, Soane left the idea behind for a long-term and successful career in the hotel and hospitality industry, ending up in Whistler as general manager of the Fairmont Chateau for three years and for the past year at Nita Lake Lodge.
But it appears the London, England, native has found his second chance to make his mark on the athletic world after being named president and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) on Tuesday (Jan. 15).
Soane said being able to mix his aptitude for business with his passion for sports is a dream come true.
“I can’t think of a better thing to do in Whistler than help athletes reach their goals,” he said in an interview with The Question on Wednesday (Jan. 16). “I love the challenge of new operations and complex operations and I think this definitely offers that.
“I think the sport legacy venues are one of the greatest things left from the Olympics.”
Since WSL’s inception, Keith Bennett has held the positions of president and CEO. He announced his retirement at the end of 2012 and WSL board chair Jim Godfrey announced Soane as his replacement, effective Feb. 18.
"Roger's depth of experience will help lead Whistler Sport Legacies to achieve our Sport Vision of becoming one of the leading sport centres in Canada. The board is very much looking forward to working with Roger," said Godfrey in the release.
Soane has almost 40 years of international operational experience managing iconic properties with complex operations and facilities.
He said one of the biggest issues facing the future of WSL is sustainable funding. During its first full fiscal year in operations for 2011, WSL’s total expenses were $7.6 million and required $2 million in funding from an endowment fund set up for sport legacy venues after the Olympics in addition to a $2.7-million disbursement from the fund to make ends meet.
“I think any organization that relies on government funding has to look at itself and say, ‘Is there a way that we can move forward as a business, or at least reduce the amount that you rely on government funding?’” Soane said. “The one thing I have heard loud and clear from representatives of the board I’ve met is that their goal is to produce world-class athletes for Canada and they see that as being their No. 1 priority.
“As much as the vision and mandate for the organization is to produce the next crop of elite athletes, I think we also have to be aware of the financial side.”
He said he looks forward to the challenge of balancing those interests of generating revenue through the venues as tourism products and providing support for the development of professional athletes.
“What is that fine balance to ensure the facilities are used to the fullest and is there a revenue stream within those three facilities that is completely outside the training window — those are the things that I will look at,” Soane said.
Soane is currently in his third year as chairman of Tourism Whistler. He said the change of employment sectors he is about to make will not affect the remainder of his term with the destination marketing organization.