Challenges for Calgary Stampede expected as BMO Centre expansion design team announced

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WATCH: The City of Calgary has hired three architectural firms to design the $500M BMO Centre expansion project, which is expected to be complete by 2024. Adam MacVicar reports – May 23, 2019

Three national and international architectural firms have been hired to design the $500 million BMO Centre expansion project.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), which is managing the development of the project, announced on Thursday that Stantec, Populous and S2 Architecture will head up the design portion of the expansion.

“The Stampede has been studying this project for years and they’re going to work through and come up with a design that not only meets the business needs of the Calgary Stampede, but the needs of the convention centre, the community in Calgary, but it also meets the needs of Calgarians,” CMLC president Michael Brown, said. “At the end of this year, we’ll be able to share what that looks like.”

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Construction management will be done by PCL Construction, while HLT Advisory has been hired as a venue operations specialist. M3 Development will manage the project.

City officials said work on the design will begin immediately and is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The expansion will double the 500,000-square-foot facility, making it the second-largest convention centre in the country.

Once complete, it could host larger conventions and events and officials hope it will boost tourism.

“We will not only have a project that is striking from a design point of view, but it will be a project that makes a lot of sense,” Brown said.

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Shovels are already in the ground on Hall F, which is being built to provide 100,000 square feet of additional space to help reduce the impact of the work set to take place on the current BMO Centre.

That project is being managed by Calgary-based firms Gibbs and Stuart Olson and is expected to be complete in the spring of 2020.

“A lot of thoughtful consideration over the years as to how this development and evolution takes place and I certainly think that thoughtful consideration will continue as we move forward,” Calgary Stampede board president and chairman Dana Peers said.

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“I have no doubt the team will be able to put it together.”

Multiple projects in a tight area couple pose problems

Construction and design teams still need to plan around the possibility of simultaneous projects in the area.

Earlier this week, a city report revealed recommendations Victoria Park CTrain station be torn down and replaced with a new one that would open up access from 17 Avenue to the Stampede grounds.

There is also the possibility that the city could move forward on a new arena and events centre during the expansion timeline.

“We need to work collaboratively with a larger team and the design teams for those other projects to make sure that the convention centre expansion is actually making those projects better as well, and that we’re not getting in the way of those being great public spaces or public amenities for the city of Calgary,” Populous senior principal Michael Lockwood, said.

City officials remain confident there won’t be many disruptions if the other projects are approved and under construction simultaneously.

“There was a point in time in East Village where we had the library, the St Louis, a residential tower as well as a hotel all being built within a two-block radius,” Brown said. we were in successful in that, we were able to learn from that, and we’ll apply the same learning to this project.”

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READ MORE: Feds to spend $166 million to help expand Calgary’s BMO Convention Centre

The glaring difference between the East Village project and the BMO expansion is the hundreds of thousands of people that make their way down to the Stampede grounds for the Greatest Show on Earth every July.

Crowds, vendors and ride-goers will have to navigate their way around a massive construction zone once the project is underway.

“We’ll be working closely with Stampede and with our construction manager, PCL, to manage the phasing of construction every single year of Stampede over the five years that this project will be underway,” Stantec senior principal Leo Lejeune, said.

Extra foot traffic during Calgary Flames games could also pose challenges, according to officials.

The renderings of the design are expected to be released later this year may look different, and will go into greater detail than those already released during the initial approval process.

“The team, I think they did a good job of putting out an idea to get people thinking about it, but the rendering that was out is just an idea,” Brown said. “The team that we put together [Thursday] is going to go into far more detail.”

During the construction phase, it’s expected the BMO expansion project will support 1,862 direct year-round jobs in the province, and 1,757 direct full-time jobs in the post-construction phase.

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Work will begin on the expansion in 2021 and is expected to be complete in the spring of 2024.

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