Resurgence of RBC Place good sign for London, Ont. economy

RBC Place in London, Ont. is seen Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Marek Sutherland / CTV News)

Business is starting to move again at RBC Place, which is great for the local economy, but also for workers whose income dried up when the pandemic began.

“I found the transition from being here all the time, to stopping, more difficult. But, yeah, getting back to it is a really good feeling,” says employee Matt Mullenix.

In 2019, the last full year of operation for RBC Place, it calculated an economic impact of over $18 million for the City of London.

The London Chamber of Commerce Business Awards was the first big event to return to RBC Place on Sept. 22, which was the same day the province began requiring proof of vaccination.

“It was a great test for us to have the doors open and all team working,” says General Manager and CEO Lori Da Silva. "And all our team was helping to screen guests coming in at the doors, to make sure they got in on a very timely basis.”

Following the awards, this week RBC Place had two events running at the same time, a first since the pandemic began.

“It was actually a hybrid conference, so we were excited to have 150 delegates on site,” says Da Silva

It was not only a test for the front-of-house staff, but the kitchen staff as well, which has been working on a project with the London Food Bank providing daily meals to the homeless, but this week fired back up to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner during the conference.

“It’s great to be creative again,” says Executive Chef David Van Eldik. “Getting familiar faces back in the building and also our guests.”

The convention business is usually plotted out well in advance, and it will be a slow return to pre-pandemic numbers, but there are a few more events this year, and increasing interest in 2022.

“We’re getting calls, and every week those calls are ramping up. So, certainly clients are asking about availability, wanting to better understand what the restrictions may be,” says Da Silva.

According to RBC Place’s 2019 report, the average convention delegate spends $341 per day on accommodations, transportation, food and shopping. And a return of that kind of cash injection would benefit the local economy greatly.