Expanded BMO Centre taking shape on Calgary Stampede grounds

·3 min read
The BMO Centre expansion will see the current facility at Stampede Park double in size, adding 560,000 square feet of space to the complex. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)
The BMO Centre expansion will see the current facility at Stampede Park double in size, adding 560,000 square feet of space to the complex. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

More than one year after the groundbreaking for the $500-million expansion of Calgary's BMO Centre, the steel frame of the building is taking shape.

Officials celebrated the progress being made Tuesday as they provided an update on construction.

They say the project will double the venue's size, adding 565,000 square feet, to become Western Canada's largest convention centre.

"This is a huge deal for the city of Calgary," says Kate Thompson, president and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, which is overseeing the project.

"At the end of the day, we're going to have about 9,000 tonnes of steel on site. We've got about a third of it up right now, so you can start seeing the scale."

About 100 construction workers are on site now, with that number rising to 400 in the coming months. They're focused now on steel erection and brick veneer panelling, which should be complete by the end of the year.

The project is on time and on budget, Thompson says. When complete, it'll be taller than both the Saddledome and GMC Stadium, which hosts the chuckwagon races, rodeo and the evening grandstand show during the Calgary Stampede.

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

The convention centre will feature exhibition halls, a grand foyer and two massive ballrooms — about 20,000 and 50,000 square feet — which will become the biggest and second biggest in Alberta.

It'll also include a large plaza, set to be twice the size of Olympic Plaza.

"Getting that number of new people … walking our streets, going to our river pathways, going to the retail, different restaurants and hotels, it's a really big, big game changer for this area," Thompson said.

Residents and visitors will be able to check out the building themselves, from afar, if they plan to attend this year's Calgary Stampede. Construction will be shut down over the 10-day period and then resume afterward.

Jim Laurendeau, vice-president of park planning and development for the Calgary Stampede, says the building will be a huge part of future events.

"Right now, the Calgary Stampede is predominantly in the consumer show business, and what this does is open up Calgary in the league of, for example, Vancouver and Toronto, of the large, large convention centres."

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

In fact, conventions are already being booked for when the site opens in 2024 and the years following.

"It's certainly motivation for us to hurry up and get this done," Laurendeau said.

The convention centre will be part of the city's newly revitalized culture and entertainment district, along with projects like Stampede Trail, the 17th Avenue S.E. extension and the CTrain's Victoria Park/Stampede Station rebuild.

Questions remain about another key piece of the district.

A deal for a new arena to replace the Saddledome fell apart late in 2021.

The city is exploring ways of reviving the project, but there isn't a firm timeline for a new event centre, which could also be a new home for the NHL's Calgary Flames as well as be used for other sports and entertainment events.

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