In June 2024, the BMO Centre at Stampede Park, Calgary, unveiled its significant expansion, making it the largest convention center in western Canada. The project, a collaboration between global design firms Populous and Stantec and Canadian studio S2 Architecture, expands the facility to a total of one million square feet.

The BMO Centre, originally the Calgary Stampede Roundup Centre opened in 1981, underwent substantial expansions in 2009 and 2020 before this latest transformation. The $500 million expansion was funded by the governments of Canada and Alberta and the City of Calgary.

A highlight of the design is its copper-colored facade and roofline, which features a 170-foot curved canopy. This canopy, adorned with programmable LED lights, welcomes visitors into the center, reflecting the shine and rugged elegance reminiscent of a belt buckle, a nod to Calgary’s cultural ties to rodeo and agriculture.

Inside, the design is inspired by Calgary’s natural landscape. The interior is dominated by a central atrium with an expansive skylight and floor-to-ceiling windows, which provide sweeping views of the city. The atrium includes a monumental black staircase and Canada’s largest indoor fireplace, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The flexible interior space is designed to accommodate various configurations for meetings, exhibitions, and social events.

The new expansion incorporates extensive public spaces, including a year-round usable plaza with a pavilion, retail spaces, and a cafe. A prominent feature of the outdoor area is the “Spirit of Water,” a 70-foot steel sculpture by artist Gerry Judah, made from 200 vertical steel tubes. This piece is a part of Stampede Park’s public art collection, enhancing the cultural and aesthetic appeal of the venue.

Michael Lockwood, a senior principal at Populous, emphasized that one of the key design motivations was “Stampede 365,” which aims to capture the energy and spirit of the Calgary Stampede Festival, an event renowned for its vibrancy and community engagement. The BMO Centre’s expansion seeks to serve as an international icon for events while being a welcoming space for the local community year-round. The design integrates modern flexibility with local cultural references, such as leather-wrapped doors featuring cowboy boot maker Alberta Boot’s signature Calgary stitch, to maintain a strong connection to Calgary’s heritage.

The expansion of the BMO Centre marks a new era for convention centers in Calgary, blending modern architectural innovation with a deep respect for the city’s natural and cultural landscape.

Photos: Tom Harris

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