Calgary Stampede lost $8.3 million in 2021 due to pandemic

·2 min read
The annual Stampede event in July is key to the organization's bottom line. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
The annual Stampede event in July is key to the organization's bottom line. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

For the second straight year, the Calgary Stampede is reporting financial losses and the COVID-19 pandemic is being branded with the blame.

City council's executive committee heard on Wednesday that the Stampede finished $8.3 million in the red in 2021.

It's an improvement over 2020 when the organization cancelled its signature event due to the pandemic.

That year, it lost $26.5 million, laid off 90 per cent of its employees and relied on federal COVID support programs to help weather the storm.

Last year's Stampede ran at about half its normal capacity because of health restrictions and the fact that many people were reluctant to go due to the pandemic.

This year's event is slated to start next week and will offer a full slate of events.


The CEO, Joel Cowley, said the organization couldn't afford to put money down on its long term debt over the past two years and took on new loans.

However, he's confident after this year, it will again have capacity to service its obligations.

Cowley credits Stampede's survival to prudent financial management in the years before COVID-19  hit.

"Leading up to the pandemic, there was a true focus on paying down debt and that contributed greatly to our ability to survive this pandemic because we had some capacity to take on some debt at that point," he told reporters.
 
"After two years of loss, we feel like we're going to have a good 2022 Stampede."


The annual Stampede event in July is key to the organization's bottom line. In a typical year, it generates about 60 per cent of the organization's annual revenues.

Cowley said the Omicron variant cut into bookings at the BMO Centre for meetings and events in the first quarter of this year.

There's been a bounce back since then, although he added that overall, staffing is still 60 per cent of its normal number.
 
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she's happy that the Stampede thinks it can pull itself out of the financial ditch it was thrown into by the pandemic.

"Calgary Stampede suffered a tremendous blow by not being able to have an event that they rely for a lot of their revenue generation," said the mayor.

"For them to be able to come back this year and say 'we're going to be okay' is a very big testament to their ability to build on that brand that they have. Their reputation is strong. People are coming back because they know that this is an organization that is resilient."

This year's Stampede will run from July 8 to 17.

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