Ground broke Thursday on the $500 million BMO Centre expansion beginning the transformation of Calgary’s Culture and Entertainment District and the Victoria Park revitalization.
The expansion is one of the major infrastructure projects planned in the downtown Calgary area, along with the recently paused Events Centre and the Arts Commons Transformation.
The latter recently received an $80 million boost through the approval of Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that it feels as though this project has been in the making for his entire 11-year tenure in office. While there’s pessimism, he said, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this is a real bright spot.
“On a sunny spring day in Calgary under the endless sky, it’s impossible not to feel optimism,” he said at a Thursday media event.
“That’s really what I feel today. The ability of us all to come together to create something very special.”
Over the past year, utility upgrades were done, along with the demolition of the old Stampede Corral building and the BMO’s Hall A, clearing the way for the expansion.
“Underneath our feet right now is this spaghetti mess of infrastructure that needed to be cleaned up and get prepared for the construction,” said Kate Thompson, President and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, project manager for the Culture and Entertainment District.
The work, expected to be complete in 2024 will add 560,000 square feet of convention space, making it the largest space of its kind in Western Canada.
“We are solidifying our role as the ultimate host city, while creating new jobs and economic activity in the creation of a vibrant Culture + Entertainment District in Victoria Park,” Nenshi said.
The annual economic impact of this project is expected to be $260 million to $300 million, Nenshi said.
“This is a very, very good foundational investment in our economy and in the development of our community,” he said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said it was an important milestone in the history of the Calgary Stampede.
“We want the world to come and visit Calgary to get to know Alberta, and to give our economy, a bit of a boost, but we need a bigger and better infrastructure to make that happen,” the Premier said.
Steve McDonough, President and Chairman of the Calgary Stampede, said today marks a significant step forward.
“Calgary’s brand of hospitality is already recognized worldwide, and our authentic Western spirit is strong, he said.
“It’s these intangible differentiators that set Calgary apart in a highly competitive international convention market space.”
Funding for the project was split between the federal, provincial and municipal governments.