The largest convention centre in Alberta is set to double in size if expansion plans at the Calgary Stampede come to fruition.
There seems to be widespread consensus that the BMO Centre needs to be larger in order to accommodate both current and future demand for conferences and events, but an agreement needs to be reached with all three levels of government before the megaproject – the capital cost is expected to be $500 million – can go into the ground.
“We’re shovel-ready,” said Larry Lalonde, group manager of communications and community engagement for the Calgary Stampede.
“We are at a fairly large capacity utilization but with our current size, we are considered a Tier2m convention and meeting space. If we expand, it would put us into Tier1 space.”
The plan is to build the expansion over four years without having to close down during construction.
The BMO Centre, formerly known as the Roundup Centre, opened in 1981 and underwent a provincially funded $50 million expansion in 2007. It operates at a 73 per cent utilization rate, which is considerably higher than the Canadian average of approximately 58 per cent.
With convention space of about 265,000 square feet and a total footprint of roughly 500,000 square feet, the blueprints call for expanding the entire facility to one million square feet. Such a move would put Calgary in the same event-hosting stratosphere as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, Lalonde said.
Lalonde said there’s no question the Stampede has been negatively impacted by Alberta’s ongoing economic downturn but if the summer of 2017 was any indication, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. There were 1.2 million visitors at the most recent Stampede in July, up about 20 per cent from the previous year’s edition.