$500M BMO Centre expansion gets provincial support after approval by Calgary city council

One day after Calgary's city council conditionally approved a $500-million project that would double the size of the BMO Centre at Stampede Park, the province has announced its financial support.

Approval is conditional upon confirmation Ottawa will fund one-third of capital cost

A rendering shows the proposed expansion to the BMO Centre in Calgary. (Calgary Stampede)

One day after Calgary's city council conditionally approved a $500-million project that would double the size of the BMO Centre at Stampede Park, the province has announced its financial support. 

The province announced a 20-year extension of the Rivers District Community Revitalization Levy for its one-third portion, while the city will fund the remainder.

The levy is responsible for the development in Calgary's East Village, including the recently completed Central Library.

It allows Calgary to use a portion of future tax income for development projects in neighbourhoods, but its extension doesn't start until 2027. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said they'll have to figure out a way to get those funds to the project so they can break ground much sooner.

He called Tuesday's announcement "historic."

City administration will bring forward funding options for council to discuss on Jan. 28.

Construction could start in 2019

Tuesday's announcement will also see money used for infrastructure improvements in Victoria Park and for what Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called a "future transformation of Arts Commons."

Approval of the BMO Centre expansion is still conditional upon written confirmation from the federal government that it will fund one-third of the project's capital costs.

"We're here today to fix a problem that has dogged this city for some time now," Notley said on Tuesday. 

She said a city like Calgary should have the facilities needed to host large events and conferences, something that will bring more money into the economy and hopefully drive private investment in Victoria Park. 

Stampede CEO Warren Connell said it's been a long process, but he's hopeful construction will start in early 2019.

"We have critical clients and events, everything from small weddings to great big car shows and home shows. It's really quite crucial we build that centre expansion with the idea of all of those events going," Connell said.

The BMO Centre is currently 500,000-square-feet — the expansion would bring that to more than 1 million. '

Tier 1 city

Connell said while they do host large events, they likely turn down about 11 to 14 large conventions each year because they just don't have the space. 

They're hoping to be done construction in time for hosting the Rotary International Convention which will see 40,000 members congregate in Calgary in 2025. 

"Calgary's convention facilities are very small compared to most cities our size," said Nenshi. "This is an opportunity for us to move into a new tier."

Nenshi said Calgary is currently considered a tier two convention city and this expansion would make the city a tier one.

With files from Scott Dippel, Sarah Rieger and Drew Anderson.


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