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SEPTEMBER 15, 1981

Opening

  • A newspaper clipping from the initial opening of the Mall.
    A newspaper clipping from the initial opening of the Mall.
  • A very early look at Phase 1, as it would have appeared just after the Mall's opening.
    A very early look at Phase 1, as it would have appeared just after the Mall's opening. Note the parrot cage animal exhibit on the main floor, as well as the now defunct Eaton's store.

On September 15 1981, Edmonton had a population of just a hair over 500,000 people. However, after this date, this relatively unknown northern city located in Alberta, Canada would be changed forever.

Once a location with no international attention, what occured on this day would thrust Edmonton into the spotlight - Edmonton would become a city featuring a world-reaching tourist destination.

West Edmonton Mall opened its doors for the first time.

Upon opening for the first time, the mall spread out over 25 hectares (~62 acres) and was an already sizeable 106,000 square meters (1.1 million sq. ft.) in size.

The mall contained 220 stores, services and retail locations. Housing three anchor tenants:

  • The Hudson's Bay Company, known then as 'The Bay' and today as 'Hudson's Bay'
  • Eatons (Now defunct)
  • Sears

The opening celebrations consisted of a ribbon cutting ceremony, accompanied by speeches from by many of the heads of the major retail tenents, and a plethora of prizes including a trip to Fiji, a 45 inch television, and thousands of dollars worth of gift certificates. Nightly fireworks were also displayed at 10 pm during the opening weekend.

The mall, whose area is known today as 'Phase 1', was little more than a large shopping center. It was by no means a small or insignifcant one, as it was already Canada's largest, however it was indeed still just a retail location which garnered mainly local media attention. What would put the mall, and all of Edmonton, on the map, was still to come...


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