BMO Centre expansion project on schedule to open for 2024 Stampede

Click to play video: 'BMO Centre expansion project on schedule to open for 2024 Stampede'
BMO Centre expansion project on schedule to open for 2024 Stampede
WATCH: The $500-million BMO Expansion Project is entering its final year of construction. As Adam MacVicar reports, there is already interest in the new convention space before it’s even finished. – Jun 22, 2023

Officials behind the expansion project for Calgary’s BMO Centre will welcome visitors to the new building next year, with the building slated to open on time and on budget for the 2024 Stampede.

The $500-million expansion will add $565,000 sq. ft. of convention space to the BMO Centre, which would make it the largest convention centre in Western Canada, with more than one-million square feet.

The new space features three floors of tradeshow and convention space, with a more than 100,000 sq. ft. exhibition hall, 38 additional meeting rooms, and two new ballrooms totalling more than 70,000 sq. ft.

Project officials said the exterior will also have retail and café spaces, a pavilion and public art installations.

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The building’s unique design also features a second-floor lobby for additional gathering space which will boast Canada’s largest fireplace, as well as an 11,000-sq.-ft covered outdoor patio under the archway that spills into Stampede Park.

The expansion is funded by all three levels of government and in partnership with the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) and the Calgary Stampede.

Click to play video: 'BMO Centre expansion on schedule and on budget'
BMO Centre expansion on schedule and on budget

BMO Centre general manager Greg Newton told reporters on a tour of the facility on Thursday that 34 conventions have already booked in the expanded space.

“About 20 of the 34 conventions currently booked could not come to Calgary without the expansion of this venue,” Newton said.

Calgary Stampede CEO Joel Cowley said there is a “tremendous amount of excitement” about the new building when local sales team work to attract conventions and tradeshows to the new space.

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“It’s blowing them away,” Cowley said. “When our sales team goes to these international conventions and shows renderings and speaks to the building, people are keenly interested.

“Certainly the remainder of Canada and the international competitive markets have taken notice as well.”

When it’s complete in 2024, the expansion is anticipated to be able to host 33,000 guests at one time.

Inside the building, work continues to meet the opening date ahead of Stampede 2024.

According to CMLC, there are 600 workers on site six days per week, and 150 lifts with around 80 per cent of the ongoing work taking place 20 feet above the ground.

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Work includes the installation of up to 30,000 sq. ft. of drywall daily.

The project is expected to be complete on time and on budget, despite other projects of similar scale taking on additional costs due to inflationary pressures and supply chain challenges.

CMLC president Kate Thompson said the BMO Expansion project also faced challenges due to the pandemic and supply chain, but credited timing and planning to avoid going over-budget.

“We got out ahead of the pandemic, and then we kept ahead of the pandemic throughout, in terms of ordering, tendering, and getting the drawings done,” Thompson told reporters. “There was never any slowdown; this project has moved ahead very quickly.”

The expectation is the expanded space will generate millions of dollars more annually for the local economy due to the variety of events that can be hosted in the space.

“The BMO Centre pre-expansion was largely a trade and consumer show facility. In other words, the show would come here and local patrons would come,” Cowley said. “They’re not bringing money into Calgary. Conventions bring money into Calgary.”

However, project officials cited a lack of hotels in the area as the next step for the convention centre to realize its full potential.

CMLC says the expansion is injecting new energy and jobs into the local economy. Courtesy / Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

Cowley said there are three sites around Stampede Park that can accommodate a hotel development, with one of those already preparing to build a hotel connected to the BMO Centre.

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He said challenges with the pandemic have slowed attracting development to the other two spaces.

“The other two, we did receive bids on them back in 2019-2020 when (request for proposals) were issued,” Cowley said. “But the pandemic and the effect it had on the hospitality industry stalled things out.”

Cowley added there is work to transport people to downtown hotels but anticipates interest from hotels now that the Event Centre project is back in the fold.

The BMO expansion sits on the former site of the Corral, the original home of the Calgary Flames.

Project officials said there will be an homage to the Corral in the new building, with a recreation of the iconic neon cowboy that welcomed visitors to the Corral to be hung inside one of the three entrances to the new convention space.

“We went through a global pandemic. We went through supply chain challenges,” Thompson said. “Here we are still standing with progress and standing very proud.”

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