$500M funding plan for BMO Centre expansion approved by Calgary council

WATCH: The province has announced an investment in the BMO Centre in Calgary. Tomasia DaSilva reports on the thousands of jobs and millions in revenue it’s expected to generate.

Calgary city council conditionally approved the funding plan for the BMO Centre expansion project at Monday’s meeting.

The decision is contingent upon the federal government committing a third of the $500-million capital cost. Funding would be split equally between the three levels of government.

Council voted to extend the Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) for another 20 years — from 2027 to 2046.

“We’ve got to figure out how to bring forward some of that money so that construction can start much, much sooner,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

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The money will go towards expanding the facility from a tier-2 centre to a tier-1 facility so bigger conventions, like Rotary International, can book events there. Nenshi said the city’s convention spaces are far behind compared to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

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“Calgary’s convention facilities are very small compared to most cities our size,” he said.

Nenshi said he’s trying to minimize debt while sorting out financing.

WATCH: It’s a game-changer for big ticket conventions, according to some city councillors. Now it’s one step closer to reality. Calgary city council approved the $500-million expansion to the BMO Centre on Monday – but there are some conditions for the deal to go through. Lauren Pullen has the latest.

BMO Centre expansion gets conditional green light from Calgary council
BMO Centre expansion gets conditional green light from Calgary council

READ MORE: Calgary’s BMO Centre expansion plans now front and centre with new funding model

Warren Connell, Calgary Stampede CEO, said he’s been dealing with all three levels of government on this project for more than two years. He hopes to start construction in 2019 since the BMO Centre is a five-and-a-half year build.

“It’s really quite crucial that we build that BMO Centre expansion with the idea of keeping all of those events going,” Connell said.

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“We’re pretty much almost doubling the existing size of the BMO Centre from just over 500,000 square feet to one million square feet of gross space,” he added. “That’s about 560,000 square feet of exhibit space.”

READ MORE: New events centre in Calgary would be ‘bigger than a hockey story’: city councillor

Connell said he’s had to turn down 11 to 14 tier-1 conventions per year because the space isn’t big enough — but those conferences still desire to be in Calgary. Rotary International is coming to Calgary in 2025 despite the city’s current tier-2 status, all because of the western heritage and the mountainous backdrop.

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The province announced on Tuesday it will extend the Calgary Rivers District Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) to allow for the expansion of the BMO Centre and millions in infrastructure upgrades to East Victoria Park.

“This investment in Calgary’s future will create 2,250 jobs, bring billions of dollars in private sector investment into Calgary and better position Calgary into the future,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said.

Council will look at how to pay for the city’s portion of the expansion at the Jan. 28 meeting.