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Calgary Stampede reveals Canada’s largest indoor fireplace

When the BMO Centre Expansion project is completed in 2024, convention goers will be able to gather around the fire in the Western tradition, albeit it in the grandest possible way.

This week, the Calgary Stampede unveiled a render of what the centrepiece sculptural fireplace will look like for their Tier 1 convention centre.

When completed in 2024, the 70-foot tall, 31-foot wide, and 7-foot deep indoor fireplace will be Canada’s largest. It will be located on the second floor of the convention centre.

“People have been gathering around fires since the beginning of time to share stories, triumphs, defeats, all their successes, and that’s where they learn—and that’s exactly what a convention is, so it’s a little bit symbolic for me that way,” said Greg Newton, General Manager of BMO Centre and Stampede Park Events.

“It’s somewhere natural that people want to gather, and that’s really important because in the meeting and convention game, I would argue that there’s a larger portion of the learning and value that comes from outside of the meeting rooms than inside the meeting rooms.”

Newton said that the fireplace as a centrepiece also serves as a beacon for users in the convention space, which unlike the current BMO Centre, is a far larger and much more open experience.

“We use a little bit of an internal model of how do we design and deliver on a hotel experience without the guestrooms, which is a little bit of a different take for a convention centre,” he said.

“Convention centres are notoriously known for being big, bland spaces, and without a lot of character.”

The design of the fireplace will include black iron and steel, meant to reflect the Western heritage of blacksmithing, along with copper highlights which hearken to the Cowboy belt buckle and to the Stampede’s own fairground experience.

The same black iron, steel, and copper motifs are being used just outside underneath the sweeping arm of the building which ends at the plaza.

“There’s a big compliment between the entire exchange and the plaza outside, and they’re meant to be mirror elements,” Newton said.

A remarkable design from all angles

Kelly Coles, Vice President for Building and Infrastructure with the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, said the fireplace provides a centre of gravity for the space.

“This fireplace structure had to be remarkable from all angles, including behind, and it had to be considered vertically as well as horizontally,” she said.

“So regardless of where you’re standing in the building, whether that’s up you in the mezzanine area looking over a railing, or if you’re entering through the escalator, it kind of emerges before you.”

The fireplace will be located underneath a large, centralized skylight which will provide natural light for the gathering space.

The effect of roaring flames will be created using water vapour technology, which produces a nearly identical result to real fire with the advantage of not producing smoke or heat.

“From a safety perspective, the whole point of this is as a gathering space and we didn’t want to have to put a boundary around it and keep people 20 feet away so as not to burn anyone, have any small children touch the glass, or any of those things you can possibly imagine,” Coles said.

“We wanted people to truly be able to gather around it without putting themselves at risk. We want it to be accessible.”

The vapour technology also is more energy efficient, which Coles said helps the expansion project meet the city’s sustainable building policies.

She said that the steel beam structural installation for the fireplace has already been completed, and that the exterior portions of the fireplace would be installed later this year.

The fireplace was created in collaboration between Stantec-Populous-S2, Heavy Industries, CMLC, and the Calgary Stampede.

“In order to see our design intent come to life, we had to partner with multiple groups, including our own prime design consultant team,” said Coles.