The $500-million expansion of the BMO Centre is a priority for the Calgary Stampede and the organization hopes it gets some good news as early as this fall regarding funding by three levels of government to push that key project forward.
“We currently have all three levels of government at the table working on the funding sources for BMO and we would hope to actually begin construction by early next year pending approval of those funding pieces,” said Warren Connell, the Stampede’s CEO. “We would double the size (of the BMO Centre) to just over one million square feet.
“We’ve been struggling for years with a capacity problem at the BMO Centre. … It’s one of the key considerations. We operate currently at a 73 per cent cap (capacity) rate, which is the highest in North America to our knowledge. So that’s how busy we are. With move-ins and move-outs, you’ll never get much higher than that.
“So literally as one show is moving in another show is moving out and that’s not very effective and we’re missing out on 11 to 14 tier one shows per year because we’re about half the size we need to be.”
By expanding the BMO Centre, Connell said the Stampede would be able to attract those shows each year.
Connell said the annual economic impact post expansion of the BMO Centre would be $267 million to Canada’s gross domestic product, including $223 million for Alberta, 17,057 direct full-time jobs of which 15,080 would be retained in Calgary, 1,297 additional jobs supported by indirect and induced spending, direct wages of $79 million for the BMO Centre and from other frontline businesses, and more than $44 million in direct taxes to the three levels of government.
The cost of the BMO Centre construction is expected to be be split equally between the municipal, provincial and federal governments. Connell said that during construction it will support 1,862 direct full-time jobs in Alberta and more than $155 million in wages and salaries for Alberta workers.
“I’m hoping you will hear in the early fall an announcement by all three levels (of government),” he added.
The Stampede also has future plans for a main street, entertainment and commercial area, leading into the Park’s north entrance.
“We put it on pause when we were evaluating the need for BMO Centre expansion and the reason we put it on pause is there was no sense getting out into the community and developing something that would then to be out of date within five or seven years,” said Connell.
“We signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with CMLC (Calgary Municipal Land Corp.). We’re working hard with CMLC that the second BMO Centre gets announced and moves forward we can then have the hotels and main street open up at the same time which makes sense.”
He said the BMO Centre would take five and a half years build. To build a main street or a hotel would be a couple of years of construction.
Three hotel developers are looking at developing 500 rooms to supplement the BMO Centre expansion.
Connell said the 17th Avenue crossing has also been approved and that will open the Stampede to the community which has been otherwise shut down since the early 1980s when the LRT line went in.
“So what’s really important about the 17th Avenue crossing is that it will open us up to pedestrian traffic,” he said. “This will let pedestrians cross at a level crossing at 17th Avenue and Macleod Trail and just walk into the Park. That’s anticipated to open the same time the Green Line does. So they’re in the midst of doing the engineering and the funding requirements for that.”
Respected business writer Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald in various capacities, including 12 years as a senior business writer.