In a matter of days, the Calgary Stampede Park will fill with hundreds of thousands of rowdy, cowboy boot-clad Canadians for the annual 10-day party that is the famous Calgary Stampede.
If you live in Calgary, odds are you’ll be there. Even if you don’t, the Stampede remains a plane trip-worthy destination for people across the country.
Stampede’s not the only attraction on the sprawling grounds, however.
In fact, the venue – which is composed of 65 hectares of land just on the edge of downtown Calgary – hosts about 1,800 events annually.
“It’s really not about the 10 days,” said Warren Connell, CEO of the Calgary Stampede, according to Canadian Press. “The 10 days are important. They’re critical to the city, to southern Alberta, obviously to us. But it is a year-round operation.”
Now, big plans are underway to make Stampede Park even more of a year-round event space. The hope is that it can help Calgary attract large conferences and boost the economy outside of oil and gas.
In 2014, the Calgary Stampede organization opened the $61-million, a 150,000-square foot space Agrium Western Event Centre. Last month, it completed its two-year revitalization of the 6.5-hectare Enmax Park and commenced work on the 10,000-square foot TransAlta Performing Arts Studios.
The largest project, however, is yet to come.
There are big plans to double the size of the 265,000 square BMO convention space, which is already the largest venue in the city. The development will reportedly cost a cool $500 million.
Expanding the space would enable the city to host conferences like Rotary International and compete with the major Canadian hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
The expansion would create 500 full-time jobs, in addition to construction jobs.
“I applaud the Stampede for trying to make it more of a 365-type destination,” said Adam Legge, CEO of the Calgary Chamber. “There’s a lot of under-utilized property in the Stampede-Victoria Park area and I think it’s really critical that they continue to try and build out their development plan to make it more of a destination, make it more lively and active.”
The positive reaction is echoed by Calgary Tourism.
“I actually think it’s critically important to our city to move into what we’ll call ‘a convention space as an economic driver’,” said Cindy Ady, CEO of Calgary Tourism. “We would be taking all the assets that we have that come from the Stampede – their ability to host, to put on great shows, that warm western hospitality welcome – and add those to a nice business mix of conference and convention space. We think that’s a nice magic little spot to be.”
We’re pretty sure Calgary’s young professional set would agree.