Countdown to Completion: BMO Centre Expansion, Calgary's new hub for world-class events

    · 8 min read

    Since the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) and the Calgary Stampede unveiled the state-of-the-art BMO Centre expansion in early June 2024, we are concluding our eight-part Countdown to Completion behind-the-scenes series with a look at how the impressive 565,000-square-foot building represents a significant leap forward for Calgary's events and hospitality scene.

    A vision realized

    The BMO Centre expansion is not just an addition to Calgary’s skyline but a transformative project that highlights the city's growing status as a premier destination for international events. Designed to accommodate large-scale, unique conventions and events, the expansion offers a world-class, premium guest experience with distinctive offerings. The $500 million project, managed by CMLC in partnership with the Calgary Stampede, is a testament to strategic planning and innovative design, positioning the BMO Centre to host exceptional events and solidifying its status as a top-tier event destination.

    "The BMO Centre expansion is the culmination of years of planning and design, driven by a vision to create a versatile, world-class venue,” says Kelly Coles, Vice President of Building & Infrastructure at CMLC. “I’m excited for Calgary to welcome international visitors to this new venue, to host events, and share with the world all the things we’ve been dreaming about with our partners at the Calgary Stampede. It’s a remarkable building, with remarkable features, that have not yet been experienced in other convention centres, and we are very excited for people to experience it.”

    As the largest convention centre in Western Canada, the expanded BMO Centre boasts 565,000 square feet of flexible event space across three levels, effectively doubling its previous rentable area. Managed by the Calgary Stampede, which has a rich history of hosting unique events for over 110 years, there are more than 500 conventions and events booked into the expansion post-opening to date. The economic impact to Calgary will equate to approximately upwards of $100 million a year and provide thousands of jobs. This also translates to filling restaurants, shops, rideshares and other attractions that make Calgary unique.

    "The building is a unique celebration of Calgary and stands out in the industry," says Greg Newton, Executive Vice-President, Conventions and Events & General Manager, BMO Centre, Calgary Stampede. "We’re already receiving calls from across North America and other competitive cities worldwide, eager to see what we've done because we’ve done it differently. This expansion has pushed our hospitality industry forward, elevating our standards and making others want to learn how we did it."

    Iconic spaces

    One of the standout features of the expansion is the Exchange, a striking central gathering space anchored by Canada’s largest indoor fireplace and the Exchange Bar, designed to evoke the warmth and camaraderie of a western campfire. These areas offer a relaxed environment for post-meeting conversations and networking, further enhancing the BMO Centre’s appeal as a premier event destination.

    The Brand Room, another key feature, offers a private 11,000-square-foot outdoor patio overlooking Stampede Park, named in honor of the original founders of the Calgary Stampede. This space, along with the various other meeting rooms and a tasting kitchen, underscores the thoughtful design aimed at meeting the needs of todays and tomorrow’s conference attendees.

    The venue’s spacious interiors and flexible layouts make it ideal for any event setup. The expansion offers unique spaces like the Champions Ballroom, which features 50,000 square feet of flexible, column-free space. This versatile area can be arranged as a dining room for weddings or parties, theatre-style seating for speakers, or an interactive classroom. Designed to evoke a rustic ranch barn, the ballroom provides a panoramic view of the Rockies to the west and draws energy from The Culture + Entertainment District and 17th Avenue, blending rustic charm with modern elegance. Additionally, the 20,000-square-foot Percheron Ballroom, named after the robust draft horses integral to the region's agricultural history, enhances the Centre’s mix of available spaces, allowing organizers to find the ideal setting for their unique event needs.

    Innovative Design and Guest Experience

    The design of the building focuses on people, their movement through the space, and their connections with others. This is evident when guests walk through the entry doors and see the prominently located concierge desk beneath the striking neon cowboy. "Our personal guest experience is not only woven into the building’s design details but also into our service culture, language, and approach," says Greg. "The concierge desk introduces a hotel-level, old-school concierge experience to the venue, allowing guests to interact personally with staff to learn more about their event and attractions in our city."

    Much like the inviting kitchens on the great ranches of the West, the expanded BMO Centre's catering experience brings people together around plentiful tables. The Culinary team crafts diverse catering offerings, within an expansive 11,000-square-foot food service area, that are rooted in western hospitality and local flavors, reflecting Canada's rich culinary heritage.

    "Operating a venue of over a million square feet requires an exceptional team—not just in numbers, but in skill, passion, and pride. And we have that team. They have dedicated a lot of time to learning new technologies and adapting to the scale of this building. We truly have the best," says Greg.

    A bright future for Calgary

    The BMO Centre expansion is more than just a new venue; it is a catalyst for growth in Calgary’s tourism, hospitality, and economic sectors. It signifies a new chapter in the Calgary Stampede’s storied history, blending timeless western hospitality with modern amenities and design.

    “This project is a significant milestone for Calgary, enhancing our city's ability to host a diverse range of events and contributing to the vibrant Culture + Entertainment District," says Kelly. "I know conference attendees will enjoy this space and experience conferences like never before. The design team’s careful consideration given to support spaces and all aspects of hosting large events or conferences will be evident and enjoyed by many.”

    The new venue promises to elevate Calgary’s profile on the global stage, attracting events and visitors from around the world and solidifying its reputation as a hub for world-class events. With the space already welcoming guests to our city, the BMO Centre expansion has quickly become a cornerstone of Calgary’s vibrant cultural landscape.

    That wraps up our eight-part series celebrating the grand opening of the expanded BMO Centre. Explore our Countdown to Completion series to discover the story behind the build of this city-shaping project. Learn more about the dedicated team, the sprawling 100,000 square feet outdoor plaza, and the distinctive design elements that set the expanded BMO Centre apart as a world-class convention destination.

    To learn more about hosting your next event in one of the numerous spaces at the world-class BMO Centre, including conventions, trade and consumer shows, special events, and meetings, contact the Calgary Stampede’s Sales & Events team.

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