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Construction begins on SAM Centre museum for Calgary Stampede heritage

Construction of the Calgary Stampede Foundation’s SAM Centre began officially with the ceremonial flipping of dirt during a groundbreaking on Friday.

The approximately $40 million dollar museum will house and display the cultural legacy of the Calgary Stampede.

In attendance was philanthropist Don Taylor, who’s father Robert Samuel Taylor, is the centre’s namesake. Taylor donated $15 million to the creation of the museum. The Government of Canada donated more than $4.5 million, and the Province of Alberta more than $5 million.

“Many of the guests that we have that come to Calgary from various parts of the country always refer to the stampede, and want to go down to see what is there,” said Taylor.

“But really for many years, the Stampede, except for two weeks a year, was in the parking lot,” he said.

Taylor said that he felt like there needed to be a place to showcase the Stampede’s history, and collection of artifacts and stories outside of the 10 days a year the show runs.

The SAM Centre is anticipated to be opened in late 2023. It will have 30,000 sq. ft. of displays, including permanent and changing exhibits. It will also be the archival home for the Calgary Stampede’s artifact collection. The exterior of the building will feature wrap-around seating, and spaces designed for outdoor activation and programming.

Architectural firms Diamond Schmitt and FAAS designed the museum to evoke the barns throughout Alberta, alongside some of the heritage buildings that were located on the Stampede grounds.

Rendering of the exterior of the SAM Centre. COURTESY CALGARY STAMPEDE

Project took time to get right

Joel Cowley, CEO for the Calgary Stampede, said that the delays in getting to the groundbreaking stage from when the project was first announced in 2013 had, in no small part, been a cause of the pandemic.

The groundbreaking itself had been delayed from earlier this year due to the spread of Covid-19 in the province.

He said that another factor in the delay was the desire to get the financials right before construction.

“I will tell you that the Calgary Stampede foundation is very prudent in how it approaches a building project, and they don’t start a project until they have all of the funding in hand,” said Cowley.

“We’re quite proud of that prudency,” he said.

Bringing year-round tourism to the area

Calgary Stampede President and Chairman of the Board, Steve McDonough, said that when the museum is complete it will help to further connect the Stampede to the wider Calgary community to celebrate its over 100 years of western heritage.

“This immersive experience will tell stories of the inspiring people in our community that have helped shape the Calgary Stampede and southern Alberta,” he said.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Fracois Philip Champagne, called the SAM Centre a place that would be not only sharing the history of Calgary, but also of Canada.

“This is not just the history of a city, this is not just the history of an event: this is the history of Canada we’re going to be celebrating,” he said.

“When I think about the heritage of our country, when we think about what defines Canada, what better defines Canada than the greatest outdoor event in the world.”

Complete details of the SAM Centre project, including additional renderings of what the museum will look like when complete, are located on the Calgary Stampede’s website.