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Expansion of Calgary’s BMO Centre will make it a top-tier facility

Grant Cameron
Expansion of Calgary’s BMO Centre will make it a top-tier facility
CALGARY STAMPEDE - A $500 million expansion of the BMO Centre in downtown Calgary will see three teams collaborating on design of the facility.

After years of pondering, planning and preparation, three international architectural firms have now been tapped to design and build a $500-million expansion of the landmark BMO Centre in the east end of downtown Calgary, Alta.

Plans call for 500,000 square feet to be added, bringing the amount of convention space to nearly one million square feet and making it the second largest facility of its kind in the country after the Toronto Convention Centre.

Clare LePan, vice-president, marketing and communications at Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), which is acting as development manager for the project on behalf of the Calgary Stampede, says construction will begin in April 2021 and be complete by June 2024.

“The expansion of the BMO Centre allows Calgary to strengthen its competitive advantage in the convention and events business in Canada,” says LePan, who noted that the expansion will enable the facility to compete with top-tier global convention centres.

“The expansion will position the BMO Centre as a Tier 1 facility attracting international level events that inject over 1,700 full time positions post-construction.”

Edmonton-based Stantec, Populous, a large global firm, and S2 Architecture, which has studios in Calgary, were recently selected to design and build the expansion. CMLC and the Calgary Stampede reviewed 12 proposals from firms all over the world before making the selection.

The team has extensive international experience in convention centre design, intimate understanding of the building requirements and the local area, the CMLC said in a statement, as well as a strong sense of how the centre fits into and enhances the local community.

Convention venue operations specialist HLT Advisory Inc. has also been hired along with project management firm M3 Development. PCL will be the construction manager.

LePan says a challenge for the team will be doing the construction work while events are still underway.

“We’ve assembled a leading-edge team to manage the intricate process that must balance the overall timeline and budget with the operational requirements of the existing facility, along with surrounding activities like the 10-day (Calgary Stampede) event, and creating a building that is sustainable for years to come – so there are a lot of moving parts.”

As for design specifics, the CMLC is requesting that the expansion incorporate sustainable materials and natural light, and feature large, multi-function ballroom space as well as smaller meeting rooms, and integrate tight safety and security measures into the plans.

To enable expansion of the convention and meeting venue to take place while minimizing disruption of existing business operations at BMO Centre, work began this spring to construct additional space, known as Hall F, that will add about 100,000 square feet of space on the northeast side of the facility. Local firms Gibbs Gage and Stuart Olson are managing construction of the hall. Work is expected to be complete in spring 2020.

LePan says expansion of BMO Centre, which will be the third since it was opened in 1982, has been under consideration for some time and was deemed necessary to bring the facility to the next level and ensure it can compete with other top-tier convention centres.

“This expansion is the result of years of planning on behalf of Calgary Stampede as part of their vision for Stampede Park,” she says.

Groundwork for the expansion was laid in 2016 when CMLC and Calgary Stampede partnered on the development of the Rivers District Master Plan to integrate Stampede Park into the overall development vision for the district. With that plan approved, the wheels were set in motion for the BMO Centre work to move ahead. The project is supported through equal contributions from the federal and provincial governments and City of Calgary.

“We’ve always been about community building, and this project is a perfect driver for the culture and entertainment district,” says CMLC president and CEO Michael Brown. “The BMO Centre expansion is a transformational project that will make significant direct and indirect contributions to the growing energy and excitement in east Victoria Park.

“It’s a signal to the world that Calgary is coming into its own as a first-class destination for international visitors. The Calgary Stampede is a wonderfully supportive and gracious partner in giving CMLC the honour of delivering the city’s top-tier convention centre it deserves.”

A robust procurement process was conducted to select the proper project team as the work calls for a highly specialized skillset, extensive experience and intimate knowledge of the needs and operations of convention venues, and must be done while the centre is in operation.

A key component of the redevelopment is to diversify Calgary’s economy by developing trade and tourism within the region. While it will enable Calgary to compete for international conventions, construction will also support 1,862 direct year-round jobs in Alberta and, post-construction, create 1,757 direct, full-time jobs – most of which will stay in Calgary.

Dana Peers, president and chairman of the board of the Calgary Stampede, says the project is important to the city and the team selected offers unparalleled expertise in not only the design of the building, but how it will integrate with the surrounding community and Stampede Park.

“After years of planning, it is very exciting to bring this team on board to realize our vision.”

Peers says the expansion is a tremendous opportunity for growth and development in the city, and the Calgary Stampede is pleased with the selected team.

“Their success in leading projects of this magnitude not only makes them the right team to do this work, but we know they will help us deliver on our commitment to our community and continue to provide exceptional guest experiences.”

Stantec senior principal Léo Lejeune says his company shares CMLC’s hopes for the east end.

“Urban connectivity and community activation have always been important parts of our design approach, and we bring this same perspective and accountability to the BMO Centre expansion project.”


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