The head of the National Ability Center, Gail Barille, is departing after what she sees as “eight busy years.”
Barille told KPCW that it was a hard decision in some ways, but it’s time to move on.
“Really proud of where we are, and this just seemed like the right time. I’ve been coming off maternity leave and really had the opportunity to spend some good time with my family and will continue to do that.” Barille continued, “As far as the NAC, we’ve done so much in these last eight years that I just have enjoyed this time to look back and be proud of that. (We) built a mountain biking program, a new life skills and coach program, our new adventure Splore programs.”
The interim director of the Ability Center is the person who’s been Chief Operating Officer there the past two years, Kevin Stickelman. He said that followed a 20-year career in the ski business. That included six years living in Park City, so he said he was glad for the opportunity to move back.
He said he has worked well with Barille.
“I learned a tremendous amount from her along the way it was my first jaunt into the non-profit sector as an employee—I’ve been on a couple of boards in the past. Going forward I step a little bit out of those day-to-day tactical operations and more into the strategic role, taking on as Interim CEO.” Stickelman says he’s interested in removing the Interim title from his role “Absolutely, that’s my hope is that this would turn into something more permanent. We moved here, my wife and two daughters, with the hope and expectation of being here for the long term. I’ve got a lot of good connections and friends in the Park City community. As an amputee myself stepping into the role permanently to lead this organization is a great opportunity.”
During Barille’s tenure, their annual participant base has grown by 96 percent. The NAC has incorporated the Splores program. Where activities range from rock-climbing in Salt Lake, to rafting in Moab.
The center has achieved 90 percent of its capital campaign. Stickelman said they have about $2 million left to raise.
In the near future, that will finance some changes on the NAC campus.
“We are actually expecting to break ground on two projects this fall out at the NAC ranch. The first of which is a pretty big expansion to our equestrian center. It adds some conference, some training space as well as some much-needed staff space and volunteer room out there. The second project we’re looking at is a recreation center that would sit in the campus and provide year-round opportunities out of the weather in a climate-controlled area.” Stickelman explained, “Think of it as a middle school sized gymnasium that could house some of those programs when the weather is not so nice. We’ll have a bouldering wall in there, so some rock climbing we’ll be able to do archery indoors, yoga classes, some of the cycling that we do, kid’s games, and then also team building for a lot of those military groups that come out to the ranch.”
They’re also developing a new building at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, after years in a more temporary structure.
“We’ve been in that double-wide trailer for almost 20 years now. We have a lease that begins as soon as we start construction.” Stickelman said “Right now, we’re still working out the entitlements with both Vail and the city on the project we’re building. It’s about a 7,000 square foot building right down there by the first-time parking lot.”
They’re also implementing a new campground.
“We’re also building a campground that is a learning environment for people to come to a controlled area out at the ranch. Learn how to camp in tents and yurts and cabins.” Stickelman explained, “Then take that offsite to the public lands here in Utah. That’s hopefully going to be through partnerships with the land agencies as well.”
Stickelman reviewed some of the numbers behind the NAC’s phenomenal growth.
“We’re on track this year to do about 7,000 individuals through our programs and that turns into about 36,000-37,000 lessons over the course of the year. A lot of our people are there for multiple days or there for multiple weeks if they’re locals.” Stickelman continued, “That growth has continued. During Gail’s tenure we saw 96% increase in participation rate. We hope to continue that we’ve got a strong team in place to make sure that we can keep that growth going.”
He said that the summer is their busiest time. And while skiing is their largest individual category, with 5,000 lessons, they have offered 32,000 lessons in other sports.
He added their involvement with military veterans started back in 1985, and now it makes up 20 to 30 percent of its programs.
As for Barille, she said she’s going to take a breather for now and think about what to do next.
“Always do what I do best tackling challenges and helping people and organizations grow. At the NAC they used to joke that there was always a Gail file on people’s computers because I am full of ideas and we could never get to all of them.” Barille said, “I have my own Gail file so I’m looking forward to tapping into that after a little time.”