Five years after its official opening, former Edmonton Chamber of Commerce CEO and President reflects on the lasting impact of Rogers Place in a thriving downtown district.
It wasn’t the easiest time to start the job, but Janet Riopel was up for the challenge. In 2014 she became President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, just after crude oil prices dipped towards 10-year lows, leaving the Alberta economy in a decline. Her role was to give a voice to businesses of all sizes within the city and help bring about beneficial projects–like the construction of Rogers Place. The massive project would have been a daunting undertaking at the best of times, but with Edmonton reeling from the effects of oil prices, the mood was grim. “We desperately needed something in our city that would unify, galvanize, and bring us together and Rogers Place was that catalyst,” says Riopel.
The world-class arena broke ground the same year as Riopel’s tenure began and officially opened just two years later in the heart of downtown Edmonton in what’s known as the ICE district. The area is the largest mixed-use sports and entertainment area in the country featuring shops, restaurants, hotels and of course, Rogers Place. “When Rogers decided to support the ICE district and become more involved in the community, they brought an even greater sense of importance to the project and what it was going to represent in the community,” says Riopel. “Partnerships like that are so meaningful. They have so much impact in a community like Edmonton.”
Since the arena opened only a few short years ago, it’s already played host to four Stanley Cup Playoffs and multiple music superstars like Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran and Garth Brooks, who played nine sold-out shows in 2017. “I don’t think Edmonton would have been able to book these events with our old venues,” says Riopel. “It’s one of the top venues in the world.”
Riopel, who retired from her role in 2021, discusses the arena as a boost to the surrounding community. “One of the most special experiences you can have is being downtown when something’s happening at Rogers place. Our streets are alive!” she says. “But I’ll tell you what, we haven’t seen anything yet!”