After 11 months of construction, the framing for what will become one of Western Canada’s largest convention centres is now complete.
After a signing ceremony by dignitaries and members of the Calgary community, the final steel beam for the BMO Centre Expansion project was lifted into place and installed.
The completion of the centre’s frame is a milestone leading towards an on-time, and on-budget completion of the project for June 2024 said Joel Cowley, CEO for the Calgary Stampede.
“We’re extremely excited to place this last steel beam and then to see the finished work commands for a June of 2024 opening,” he said.
“It is amazing that this project during some very challenging times, has been brought in on time and on budget, which is a testament to CMLC, PCL, and our park planning and development team at the Calgary Stampede.”
The 28,000 lbs. beam is 90 feet long, and will form the structure for the end of the sweeping overhang and shade on the east end of the centre.
A small tree adorned the final beam as part of the ‘topping out’ ceremony, reflecting that construction has “met the sky,” said Kate Thompson, CEO for the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.
“In doing so, it has done so without any injury or loss of life and it bodes well for all the future inhabitants of this building—so it’s a great milestone,” she said.
Thompson said it was hard to underestimate the challenges that have led to this stage of construction for the centre.
“I’m not gonna lie, it’s really challenging. We’ve just gone through two years of unprecedented market conditions,” she said.
“We’ve gone through extreme market volatility, and supply chain challenges that are unprecedented, and yet here we are.”
Related content: Take a tour inside the construction of the new BMO Centre
She said that once the project was complete, Calgarians would find that despite offering more than a million sq. ft. of space, there would be smaller moments and locations of delight to be found.
One of those not so small locations will be Canada’s largest fireplace.
“It was seen as really important part of the history of this building and the Calgary Stampede to have that gathering around a natural element of fire, embedded into this building, and it’s exciting design feature project along with a few others you’ll find out later on,” Thompson said.
On track for a quarter-billion GDP expansion for Alberta
Cowley said that the Stampede’s previous projections of $267 million in additional GDP expansion for the country, and $243 million in expansion for Alberta are holding steady.
He said that already the interest in the use of the facility has been great, with at least one convention asking if they’ll be able to book for May instead of June 2024.
The Stampede has booked 21 conventions thus far, representing around 150,000 delegates and 170,000 room nights for local hotels.
“A lot of those are in the near term, but that’s eight years out after after the opening of the BMO because for a lot of these they’re booking that far with regard to their convention—especially when they rotate locations,” said Cowley.
He said that although the expansion fits into the overall plans for Stampede Park becoming a year-round destination for international travellers, the new centre will be incorporated into the Stampede.
“It’s exciting because the second floor with the 38 meeting rooms really gives us an opportunity to bring in some conventions that want to be here during Stampede. In particular agricultural conventions, Western lifestyle conventions, and then the two huge ballrooms also contribute to that as well,” Cowley said.
He said that the 100,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space on the first floor would be largely used for the public during the Stampede.
The expansion positions the Calgary Stampede as an international convention destination, rather than a trade-show venue.
“Trade shows come to town and the local population come to the BMO centre—and we won’t abandon that, we will still be a very busy trade show venue and the conventions that we drawn in the past have been good business,” Cowley said.
“This really places the Stampede, Stampede Park, and City of Calgary on the map as a tier-one convention destination so that we can compete with the finest convention centres in the world and bring people here from all over the world.”
Master plan being followed for further development of River District
Thompson said that the next steps for completion of the project involve up to and over 400 trades people working inside the structure to complete the building.
By the summer of 2023, she said, the full exterior of the building will be complete.
She said that the continued development of the area around the centre would follow according to the CMLC’s master plan.
Among that is the continued transformation of the street around the centre into a year-round festival destination.
“When we worked with Calgary Stampede to build out the master plan for this area, this was always considered a festival Street, and what’s challenging about a festival Street is it it needs to be a lot of things at different times,” Thompson said.
“We’re hopeful that we can close the street down, we can also have vibrant retail great patios and great pedestrian sidewalks for people to walk in and out of events.
“All of those challenges still remain for that project, and we’re on track for that to deliver a different type of street for Calgary, but also hitting all of those requirements.”