Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

City committee approves debt guarantee for the Calgary Stampede

Stampede officials said their post-Covid recovery will be a multi-year effort.

The Calgary Stampede said they had the fourth biggest attendance on record and a healthy surplus, but they’re still digging out from the pandemic.

Stampede officials were in council to talk about the financial situation of the Calgary Stampede, as city councillors reviewed a revised bylaw that would see the city guarantee their debt.

The amended bylaw would see the City of Calgary guarantee third-party bank indebtedness of the Calgary Stampede in the amount of $10 million.

The item was unanimously approved at Executive Committee on March 22. it will need final endorsement at an upcoming regular meeting of council.

Calgary Stampede CEO Joel Cowley said that despite municipal and federal support during Covid, and an exceptional 2022, it’s going to be a multi-year recovery.

He said they lost $26 million in 2020, and even with help, lost $8.3 million in 2021. They recovered, with the fourth largest attendance in history in 2022, and had a surplus of $13.8 million. Roughly $12.9 million was one-time, non-recurring Covid support.

“If you do some adjustments, we kind of had an average year, but it will take a number of average years for us to truly recovered in 2019 levels,” Cowley said.

One challenge for them is a mounting deferred maintenance bill. Cowley said it’s about $10 million at Stampede Park.  They’re also trying to rebuild their team. He said they’ve added back some critical positions in 2023, reaching 80 per cent of their full-time capacity.

“We’re not able to do everything that we want it once but we do have a plan and our model suggests that we will recover from this, but it will be a multi-year recovery,” Cowley said.

Cowley said they also have balloon payments due from a restructured debt.

The City of Calgary’s support gives them access to lower interest rates, as well, Stampede officials said.

Deferred maintenance for the Calgary Stampede

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean asked what the Calgary Stampede did with the Covid funding, and why that cash wasn’t used to cover maintenance.

“I saw a lot of businesses during the Covid era, when they got government funds, they took that time and that money to do their maintenance or expansions,” he said.

Cowley said most of the relief cash was put towards operating costs. Typical capital repair costs would be about $4 million annually.

“The inability to put money toward those capital repairs created a bit of a backlog,” he said.

Cowley said they were able to manage $4 million in repairs this year. They had identified $14 million in capital upgrades prior to 2023, leaving them with $10 million.

“The short answer to your question is those funds were really put toward operating and keeping the business going,” he said.