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Volume 20 No. 42
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The Building Managers: Libby Raines

Vice president, building operations, Scotiabank Saddledome

A musician friend of Libby Raines recently said to her “You don’t choose a life in music, it chooses you.”

With a facility operations résumé that spans 32 years, Raines knew exactly what her friend meant.

“The same thing could be said for the event management life,” she said. “Once you get into it, it just grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go.”

The music comparison was an appropriate one, too, because Raines began her college career at the University of Calgary in the late 1970s as a classical music performance major, but graduated with a degree in history.

“I figured out quickly that I wouldn’t be happy starving,” she said. “So when I came out of college with a liberal arts degree, I naturally didn’t really have a career plan!”

Upon graduating in 1981, she took a short-term position in the ticket office of the Calgary Stampede, the city’s annual fair and agricultural exhibition, where she spent a lot of time “counting deadwood” (unsold seats). In 1983, she became the second employee at the new $61 million Olympic Saddledome (now Scotiabank Saddledome) when the Stampede was awarded the building’s management contract. When the Calgary Flames took over arena operations in 1994, she became an employee of the team and has held the position of vice president of building operations since 2001.

She has guided events around the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, three Stanley Cup playoff series and the 2006

Raines prepares to drop the honorary puck at a Calgary Flames exhibition game at the Saddledome, which recognized her efforts to repair the arena from extensive flood damage.
Photo by: Calgary Flames
World Figure Skating Championships. Raines usually puts in a full day at the office and is then on hand for the 86 regular-season home dates played by the arena’s three teams and the approximately 40 other major events the venue hosts each year.

Yet many of her most vivid memories include animals, rather than athletes or singers. One such event occurred about 25 years ago when a circus was in town.

“The Stampede was hosting their annual bull sale and the circus had come to town,” she said. “The building was still in hockey mode, so during the conversion the elephants were being set up in an adjacent barn normally reserved for the bulls. One of the ag guys was moving the bulls as the elephants were being moved in.”

When an elephant announced his presence with a loud trumpet, it startled a bull, which picked up its handler and dropped him to the ground, breaking the man’s arm. An earlier incident saw a member of her crew picked up by a pachyderm and dropped, also resulting in a broken arm.

But few memories will be as lasting as those surrounding the floods that devastated the city this summer, with water levels reaching the eighth row inside the arena.

“As much as it was a terrible thing, it was such a positive team building within our operation and for our city,” Raines said. “We had so much support from ticket holders, sponsors and partners. We had fans showing up with pumps. Season-ticket holders calling and asking how they could help. It was really a heartwarming time. We feel so honored that we serve such a wonderful community.”