Calgary councillor concerned over convention centre, BMO Centre competition

Calgary's BMO Centre in a picture dated Dec. 17, 2018. Global News

With the bold and high-priced expansion plans for the BMO Centre, there is concern from some City of Calgary councillors that a strategy for the current convention centre will pit the two facilities against each other.

Perhaps it was the name of the report that went in front of council’s planning and urban development committee that caused some concern.

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Titled “Establishment of a Downtown Convention District,” the report stated how the current convention centre is working with hotels, restaurants and retail businesses to promote the area.

Using space in the hotels and offices in the area, 300,000 square feet of convention space would be created instead of the just over 100,000 square feet in the Telus Convention Centre.

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Ward 1 Councillor Ward Sutherland is concerned about future competition between the convention centre and BMO Centre for the same conventions.

“If it ends up being just simply competition, no one is going to win,” Sutherland said Wednesday.

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Sutherland is one of council’s representatives on the Calgary Stampede board. He also suggested the possibility of just having the BMO Centre as a convention space in Calgary, as opposed to also allowing for trade shows in the facility.

“When we look at the downtown district, we really need to take a look at that space and what it should be used for — it might not be a convention centre,” the Ward 1 councillor said.

“We want to keep that space active and busy because it is high-priced real estate.”

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Clark Grue, president of the Telus Convention Centre, said there is no intent to compete with the BMO Centre expansion.

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“We’ve been looking for a solution to work with them,” Grue said Wednesday. “These should be done very much in concert as far as promoting goes, but showing the differences between the two centres.”

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi believes there is room for two conventions centres in Calgary.

“Absolutely. They’re different sizes, they serve different purposes and they need to be able to work together,” Nenshi said.

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The mayor said he agrees with the work going on between the convention centre and hotels, restaurants and retailers in the area.

“It’s also a way of thinking about what our overall downtown strategy is, to attract more visitors. But also to attract Calgarians to the restaurants, the theatre events and so on downtown,” Nenshi said.

“It makes a lot of sense to co-ordinate this in my opinion.”


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