Stampede gets help from city after $26.5 million loss in 2020

Stampede goers race down the Stranger Things slide at the Calgary Stampede on Monday, July 8, 2019. (LIVEWIRE CALGARY FILE PHOTO)

The Calgary Stampede was saddled with a $26.5 million loss in 2020, but a credit amendment from the city lassoed some breathing room for them.

The matter came to the city’s Priorities and Finance committee meeting June 8.

Councillors heard that the $26.5 million loss occurred even with the Calgary Stampede receiving close to $10 million in government COVID-19 relief funding.

The amendment that passed at the meeting would result in a new $10 million credit facility between the Stampede and its lender. This is in addition to the Stampede asking the city to waive the organization’s debt service coverage ratio for 2021.

Dana Peers, Interim CEO for Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Limited, said that this amendment to the credit facilities was desperately needed.

“This is a difficult situation for a not-for-profit, in that we do not have the ability to keep on hand cash reserves of any real quantity. We plan every year to hold the annual event. This year has been somewhat different in that we tried to adjust and be as flexible as possible for as long as possible,” Peers said.

History of helping the Stampede

This isn’t the first time the city has offered aid to the Stampede. There are three credit facilities that the Stampede has already utilized for Stampede park redevelopment.

The first was in 1998 when council allowed a $60 million loan guarantee for land acquisition and extensions to the BMO centre. This happened again in 2005 when an $80 million loan guarantee was approved by council. The third and last time this happened was when the city entered into an amended credit agreement in 2008.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi asked whether the $26.5 million in expenses recorded on their income statements was unavoidable. Peers said that was mostly the result of having to run a large park while accounting for utilities. Even if there was only a skeleton crew to staff the park.

While there were reassurances, Mayor Nenshi directed several questions towards Peers and others from Stampede management, assessing the risks that this new amendment posed to the city.

“You really do believe that this is not adding any further debt or credit risk to the city? This is a one-time thing where the Stampede will make good on their commitments going forward,” Nenshi said.

Nenshi was assured that these amendments are not new bylaws or guarantees, just a request to let the Stampede amend conditions they have with their bank and lender.

Calgary needs the Stampede

Peers went on to address the why he thinks Calgary needs the Stampede this year despite the pandemic.

“The annual event is a significant part of the economy in Calgary, and of course, we do this for our community. There are small businesses that depend on the 10-day event. This is an effort to be part of the relief effort here in Calgary,” Peers said

Councillor Sutherland closed things off saying he believed any potential risks about the Stampede going ahead had been addressed.

“The safety precautions with AHS have been discussed numerous times at our board meetings, and we are all aware of the concerns people have. Nothing is being hidden, and we are following AHS regulations, plus a little bit more. The situation is fluid. The risk is there, but we are moving forward,” Sutherland said.  

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw told reporters at the Tuesday briefing that they’d been working with the Calgary Stampede for months on a plan.

“We’ve been working with the Calgary Stampede organizers for several months, to make sure that we’re thinking through ways of mitigating the risk of significant spread in that venue,” she said.

“It’s not going to be the Stampede that would typically happen.”

The Stampede is set to go ahead at its normal dates in July despite the ongoing pandemic.

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