A TRAINING CENTER COMES TO LIFE
“Let’s Start a Training Center” she said. “I’ll be fun” she said…that’s the refrain from Pete as he stood atop the scissors lift scraping ancient insulation off the girders for the 12th day in a row.
Some of you have heard the saga of the training center development, but many haven’t. I thought I’d share some of the challenges and our journey in bringing the Training Center to life.
For years I had felt there was a place in the market for an indoor facility specializing in basic skills and dog sports. I was tired of being tied to the weather…having to cancel classes during a monsoon or when temperatures soared or just having to adjust when I could teach because the sun set too early.
I was always in search of a space that could be used for agility since winters were getting wetter and summers were getting hotter. We needed an indoor space. The journey started when Kensco Supply closed their doors leaving their large warehouse and retail space vacant and a bit derelict. The owners wanted to sell the buildings but they needed so much work, we just couldn't justify sinking that much money into the structures. The building and that warehouse set empty because of its condition for over 9 years. Luckily for us, the buildings ultimately sold to an investor who had the wherewithal to do the repairs. He gave us a great rate on the warehouse “as is” since it had zoning violation issues…(more on that later) with the agreement that we’d upgrade the building interior. We have an option to purchase the buildings and may someday exercise that. For now, we’re happy tenants.
In the spring of 2018, I started working on the paperwork that would allow us to occupy the space. The land we’re on is zoned Commercial-General. You can’t have a warehouse in that zoning but back in the day sometimes rules were ignored and buildings appeared that shouldn’t be there. Ours is one of them. The only way you can use a non-conforming building is with a Special Use Permit from the City. Also, because we’d have dogs there on a regular basis, we’d need a Special Use Permit. Overall, the permitting went smoothly. We had one neighbor who challenged our initial approval because she felt that dogs needing training were a danger. The City Council disagreed and upheld our approval in the fall of 2018. With our Special Use Permit in hand, the real work began.
When we took occupancy, the warehouse had blown insulation on the walls and ceiling, trash everywhere and uninsulated roll-up doors. There was no front door, only an opening into a covered walkway that leaked like a sieve. First, we had our contractor install the entry door while we started hauling junk out. We upgraded our lighting to LED to get a bright space and save money. Once the old wood shelving was taken down, we prepped the floor, and cleaned for days. We had several friends who came to help and without whom the center might not exist. They swept, bagged trash and helped us get it ready to actually begin work on the space. We estimate that the building hadn’t had a cleaning in about 10-15 years…it was dust central!
We discovered that the building’s blown insulation was done incorrectly…think lowest bid or DIY here. The insulation covered the inside of the building, including all the girders and structural supports. Before we could paint and make it “pretty” we had to remove the overblow from those supports and girders. That was a challenge. Some of the blown insulation had very little glue so you never knew when a huge chunk was going to drop on your head. Other areas had so much glue that you had to use a chisel to remove it. We spent about 3 weeks scraping insulation off the structural girders and roof supports…by we, I mean Pete spent weeks on a scissors lift scraping stuff off the ceiling supports and upper girders with myself, Krysten Kellum, Brendan Wilce, Janet Rhoades, and Janyne Reckner sweeping and bagging ancient insulation below. All in all we bagged 60 large contractor’s bags (50 gallon size) of insulation from those supports. It makes me tired just to think of it!
Next came sanding and rust removal where needed so we could prime and paint the girders and ceiling supports. We went through six 5-gallon buckets of white paint on the supports. Bless Glen Webb of The Paint Spot for loaning us a sprayer so we could spray the ceiling supports. That saved us hours of work and he earned our eternal thanks.
Once the paint was done, we hired a professional company specializing in warehouse insulation to reinsulate the walls and ceiling. Did you know that there’s 2.7 miles of aluminum wire holding the insulation on that ceiling? Look at the closely. These guys were artists. The pattern on the wire is identical everywhere. Amazing and it only took them 2 days. We lived with just insulation on the walls until late 2019 when our friends helped us hang 79 sheets of drywall, tape, texture, prime and paint the walls over the weeks between Christmas and New Years.
Finally, we were ready to install our flooring. That flooring was originally in the Canine Gym in Sacramento. When they closed, I was fortunate enough to hear about it and purchased it from the owners there. So on a hot July day in 2018 while I was recuperating from knee surgery, Pete supervised the removal crew in Sacramento and relocation of the flooring up the hill. It took two trips because the rolls were so heavy the cabover truck couldn’t handle the load in one trip. That flooring was "stored" in the building as we worked around it for weeks getting the painting and insulation done so it could be put down. Once that was finished unrolled, custom cut and taped the flooring down so it could be sealed to prevent urine from getting under the mats. I spent every evening and weekend on the cart caulking the seams of the floor. It looked fantastic but after hand washing all 6000 sf of it twice, we decided to bite the bullet and buy a commercial floor machine. Enter the “dog-boni” that cleans, scrubs, and removes dirt and filth all in one pass. Our floor is cleaned and sanitized weekly with the same product many vets use to clean and sanitize their surgeries. We love our dog-boni!
We opened our doors on January 11, 2019, and held our first event, a Sacramento Dog Training Club Obedience and Rally trial that same weekend. Pete built all the roll around platforms for crates and the mobile walls plus designed the wall racks for weaves, tunnels and jumps. We’ve added the store to offer training toys and equipment you couldn't get locally and because of our great students and instructors, it’s grown from there. Today we lease the front retail space for obedience, rally and seminars. That space has rolled ribbed rubber flooring like you’d see in an obedience or conformation ring. As a side note, thanks to Mary Clark who knew I was looking for flooring and clued me in on a rumor about Onofrio selling some flooring. That’s where our flooring came from.
So that’s a brief overview of opening the center. We did all the work ourselves with the help of our friends. We spent every weekend and most holidays working on the center from 2018 to 2020. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at the center became a tradition. One we’re happy has now been retired.
The next time you’re there, take a look around. This is a labor of love. I’m often asked what I’ll do when I retire and my answer is you’re standing in my retirement. Would I do it again knowing what I do now? No way but I’m glad we did it.