Facing new BMO Centre expansion costs, Calgary Stampede budgeting for $5M loss in 2024

Still, those losses come nowhere close to the pandemic-era deficits that hit $26 million in 2020, when the 10-day rodeo and exhibition was cancelled

Article content

After getting back in the black over the past two years, Calgary Stampede is projecting a nearly $5-million loss in 2024 primarily due to costs from the soon-to-be-completed BMO Centre expansion.

Still, those losses come nowhere close to the pandemic-era deficits that hit $26 million in 2020, when the 10-day rodeo and exhibition was cancelled.

Article content

With the BMO Centre expansion nearing opening day, Stampede is on the hook for outfitting the building with fixtures, furniture and equipment, said Stampede CEO Joel Cowley. All three levels of government equally funded the expansion. And with only a half-year of hosting revenue available to Stampede, the revenues from those events won’t be able to make up for the expenses necessary to get the building event-ready — and management wasn’t willing to skimp on Stampede to balance the budget.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“If we have to take a loss this year to ramp it up, we will do that rather than do it at the expense of our programming,” Cowley said in an interview. When Stampede takes possession of the BMO Centre this summer, amortization of the capital costs will also kick in.

Overall, Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Ltd. says it’s budgeting for gross revenues to hit more than $197 million in 2024 — an increase of $24 million from 2023’s final results, according to a report to city council.

But while last year’s net revenues were about $3 million, Stampede is projecting expenses to exceed revenue by $4.7 million in 2024. Cowley said this year’s losses will be temporary, adding it will be “much easier” to generate a neutral budget when it gets a full year out of the centre.

Recommended from Editorial

Stampede also said it’s expecting lower assumed attendance than 2023’s final tally, but that figure could increase if weather co-operates.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

This year it estimates the exhibition will welcome 1.3 million people, according to the report, after recording nearly 1.4 million last year.

“We feel if we get good weather, we will well surpass 1.3 million — but you don’t count on that or budget for that,” he said. Two brief late-day thunderstorms sent rodeo-goers indoors last year, but it was otherwise a sunny event.

The final annual report next year could end up significantly different if Stampede welcomes similarly massive crowds this year. Last year, Stampede underestimated attendance by 200,000 people, predicting 1.2 million visitors.

The estimated revenue numbers are a sharp rebound from 2020. That year, it earned only $25 million in revenue and ended up with more than $26 million in losses. The following year, running at about half its normal capacity due to the pandemic, it recorded $8 million in losses.

But the Stampede posted a $13-million revenue surplus in 2022 and nearly $3 million the following year.

This year will see the return of an auto show that was cancelled in 2023, Cowley told Postmedia in April. Meanwhile, staffing levels that were decimated by the pandemic are back to 2019 levels, he said.

Advertisement 4

Article content

The BMO Centre expansion has been substantially completed
The exterior of the expanded BMO Centre is shown at an event marking its substantial completion in Calgary on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia

With the exception of work around the Victoria Park/Stampede CTrain station, this year will also be the first in several years that Stampede-goers won’t have to navigate construction near the BMO Centre, as the expanded centre will be jam-packed with new events and offerings. (The expansion adds 565,000 square feet to the convention centre, bringing it to more than one million square feet.)

Cowley said the first floor will be dedicated to shopping and various booths. The second floor will host competitions, meetings and conferences, and the third will host banquets, a robotics competition and the building’s main 20,000-square-foot ballroom will host a wine experience featuring award-winning wines from Stampede’s inaugural cellar wine competition.

“That gives people an opportunity to be drawn into the space and to see how spectacular the ballroom is, and look out the window onto the midway and see the Rocky Mountains,” Cowley said.

[email protected]
X: @mattscace67

Article content