Calgary

Impact of Rogers outage on Stampede was limited, but some headaches for business remain

Rogers' nationwide outage Friday led to massive headaches for retailers around Calgary on the first official day of the Stampede — and though most issues have since been resolved, some businesses are still tying off the loose ends.

Most issues hit on festival's 1st official day and led to challenges for vendors

Visitors take in the midway at the Calgary Stampede on Friday, the first official day of the event. A massive service outage at Rogers Communications led to widespread issues as the festival kicked off. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Rogers' nationwide outage Friday led to massive headaches for retailers around Calgary on the first official day of the Stampede — and though most issues have since been resolved, some businesses are still tying off the loose ends.

Services were disrupted for more than two days, leading to mobile and internet outages across the country.

Rogers Communications has blamed the outage on a maintenance update that caused its routers to malfunction.

"Like many, the Stampede was impacted by the Rogers outage, mostly with our bank machines and point-of-sale machines in our venues and among our vendors," reads a statement from the Calgary Stampede.

Scooter Korek with North American Midway Entertainment said a senior member of the Stampede texted him on Friday first thing in the morning, telling him a nationwide outage was taking place.

"We tested some of our machines to find out that was actually the case, that we're going to have some issues," he said. "We jumped into action."

Korek said organizers replaced their debit machines with options running off an alternative to the Rogers system and utilized gift cards.

"By later that night, by say the close of the business day, we were pretty much back to normal," Korek said.

Operations at the grounds have since returned to normal. 

Of course, those looking to partake in Stampede activities often do so far outside the boundaries of the grounds. Busy bars and restaurants also found themselves having to juggle the impacts of the outage.

A person looks at their cellphone displaying a Rogers service interruption alert in Montreal on Friday. The outage, which lasted more than 15 hours, affected mobile and internet users — preventing calls to 911 in some cities, knocking out ATMs and shutting down the Interac payments system. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Ernie Tsu, owner of Calgary's Trolley 5 brewery-restaurant and president of the Alberta Hospitality Association, said the outage was a "nightmare" for businesses across the city.

"The largest common communication between all the members and between restaurants is this is evidence that we can't have one network controlling everything," Tsu said.

Tsu said staff at his 17th Avenue S.W. brewpub were spending Monday manually entering more than 800 transactions.

"For any of the cards that come back declined, we'll have to go through the bank and Rogers to see if we get these credits back against the bills that were not paid," Tsu said. "Yeah, it's tough, for sure. Especially on Day 1 of Stampede for Calgary."

Ernie Tsu, owner of Trolley 5, says staff were manually entering in transactions that came through on Monday, but that makes for a long, arduous process. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The hiccups were a big headache for businesses ready to move on from a difficult period. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce believes this year's Stampede is poised to give a big boost to the city's economy.

"Five years of really tough energy sector issues, then followed by the pandemic, so this is a comeback for Calgary in a way," chamber CEO and president Deborah Yedlin told CBC News last week.

But despite the issues, there are early indicators that attendance numbers are high — despite payment issues, the Stampede broke its Day 1 record, with 130,777 people taking part in the festivities on opening day. A total of 436,464 have passed through the gates so far.

Last year, the organization said more than a half a million people walked through the gates — less than half of the attendance of the previous two Stampedes, but still a substantial pandemic-era crowd as mass events began to return after COVID-19 struck in early 2020.

In total, 528,998 attended last year's festival, compared with 1,275,465 visitors in 2019 and 1,271,241 in 2018. 

With files from Laura McQuillan and Paula Duhatschek

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