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  • Kyla Kahrs

50 Years In the Making: President John Rodda Shares the Impact of the Games On Where He Is Today


President John Rodda has been with the Arctic Winter Games for 50 frigidly wonderful years. He is a lifelong Alaskan and participated in different roles within sports throughout his entire life. He has been a coach, participant, and volunteer in the sports community since the early 60s. From 1974 to 1997, he was involved in the development, construction, and management of four indoor ice arenas. He became involved with the Arctic Winter Games just three years after they began.


Mr. Rodda’s early life was spent on his family’s 160 acre homestead then moved to Anchorage in 1958 where he became involved in sports. This participation in sports became the foundation of most of his career. He learned the value of giving back to the community from his parents and friends who volunteered in support of youth athletics.


Due to how he was raised, and his passion for sports, he always had an interest in public parks and facilities. His career started in the early 70s managing the old Anchorage Sports Arena. From 1975 to 1978, he worked with former Mayor Sullivan to open and manage the Ben Boeke Arenas. In 1983, he moved to open the Sullivan Arena then on to the Harry J. McDonald Center in 1984. In 1998, he was appointed Sports and Recreation Director by Mayor Mystrom and continued to work for the Municipality of Anchorage as the Parks and Recreation Director until he retired in the Fall of 2019.


In 1973, as the Sports Arena manager, Rodda found out Anchorage would be hosting the 1974 Arctic Winter Games. Since that was the only indoor ice arena, they would be hosting all the ice events other than curling. He had no idea how the Games would affect him. He said, “It was such an incredible experience making it happen, feeling the enthusiasm and excitement of the athletes, and meeting people who have become lifelong friends. I tell people I was bitten by the Arctic Winter Games bug, and after 50 years, I have continued to be involved.”


He said that he enjoys all of the sports, but Arctic Sports and Dene Games are his favorite. When asked if he had failed at any of the events he had tried, he told of a time he was confident with his athletic ability and felt he could play or try most of the sports. At one of the Games during practice, he tried the one-foot high-kick. He failed miserably and was mercilessly laughed at by his colleagues. He learned a new appreciation for how hard the athletes have to train and hone their crafts.


I didn’t realize that John Rodda had such an impact on the Games. He seems to be responsible for the existence of some of the locations being used at not only this year’s Games, but many over the past 50 years. While watching the skating competitions, we are appreciative of the time and effort put into the Harry J. McDonald Center. We are very lucky the 1974 AWG had such an impact on now President John Rodda. If you happen to see him around, make sure you thank him for everything he has done.


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