Stampede 365: How Calgary Stampede keeps the party going year-round
For 10 days every July, Calgary sees the biggest party of the year roll through the city. But even after the last cowboy rides off into the sunset, the Calgary Stampede keeps the party going — it’s just spread out over the remaining months as opposed to packed into a few days.
“During Stampede, [there’s] 1.2 million-plus visitors that we see during those 10 days,” Calgary Stampede director of development Greg Newton said.
“What most people don’t know is that the Calgary Stampede sees another 1.2 million visitors the rest of the year travelling to Stampede Park from around the world to take part in events.”
From concerts to conferences to conventions like the Wedding Fair and RV Expo, Stampede Park — which includes the BMO Centre — hosts a variety of events.
“Our department takes care of everything outside those 10 days in the summer because we are a convention centre, so we have so many events on the park,” events manager Jason Robles said.
At 280,000 square feet, the BMO Centre is the biggest convention centre in the city and the busiest venue per square foot in the country, according to Robles.
“We run at about 70 per cent occupancy,” Newton said. “And 70 per cent occupancy sounds like you still have 30 per cent room and growth, however, when you’re running that high in occupancy, your building then has no ability to properly maintain and clean itself because it’s running so busy.”
It’s a good problem to have, Newton said, adding the pace means the money keeps rolling in year-round, helping support the economy.
“We talk about what the Stampede generates for the city and the province and we talk about $400 million in economic impact and that’s an important number,” he explained. “About 60 per cent of that comes from Stampede time, the other 40 per cent from year-round.”
Newton added that the steady business contributes to taxi and rideshare services as well as restaurants and hotels in the city.
“Those are the people that are keeping Calgarians employed, with one in 10 Calgarians employed in the hospitality sector,” he said.
Elizabeth McCullough is general manager of trade shows for the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating and has been bringing the Ciphex West trade show to Stampede Park since the early ’90s.
‘It’s a good location for our attendees,” McCullough said. “It’s easy access, whether you’re coming in from Calgary or Edmonton.”
The show draws between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors over two days along with more than 700 exhibitors.
“We’ve got a little over 200 companies,” she said, “So in addition to buying booth space, we get a lot of people renting hotel space, they’re eating meals, they’re entertaining customers, they’re throwing big events for their customers so they’re spending a lot of money in the show.”
McCullough said the Ciphex West trade show has been coming to Calgary for four years, adding that hosting at Stampede Park allows attendees to see the city sights in their downtime.
Newton agreed, saying the city is a big draw for many looking to host a destination event.
“I think Calgary is well positioned to compete against anybody on the amount of different activations that it can offer any group coming to our city,” he said.
Still, Newton said he feels Calgary is lacking enough venue space to draw in bigger clientele.
“We’re not getting our fair share when we compare ourselves against Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and that’s just because we don’t have the appropriate space,” he said.
“We’re not attracting as much hotel investment into our city as we would like to see and those are the things that are going to allow us to grow as a city into the future.”
He added the Stampede is working to address the apparent lack of space and venues.
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