Calgary, a past Winter Olympics (1988) host, is fast gaining a reputation for conferencing and other big events – and not just in its strong suit sector of oil and gas.
The city has two major venues to consider for large convention-style events – the BMO Centre at Stampede Park – currently undergoing a CAD$500m expansion – and the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre. Both are located downtown, close to restaurants, hotels, theatres and shopping.
Calgary Stampede Park is a multi-purpose group of facilities, with 46,451sqm of flexible function space. Its expansion project is due to be completed by 2024, turning the facility into the second largest convention centre in Canada.
Calgary TELUS Convention Centre (CTCC), meanwhile, is directly connected to the Marriott Downtown Calgary, Fairmont Palliser and Hyatt Regency Calgary hotels. CTCC has 11,334sqm of flexible convention space and offsite venues include Calgary’s new Central Library.
If those are the two big beasts in the venue market, then Calgary’s unique character throws up many other special venues for consideration. Music halls, like the city’s libraries, are hubs of cultural activity, bringing both visual appeal and acoustic quality. Calgary’s Studio Bell (National Music Centre) is able to accommodate large events and gatherings and offers an interior clad in 226,000 glazed terracotta tiles, as well as the backdrop of Canada’s Music Hall of Fame.
The city’s various science centres can add temporary exhibits to coincide with a special event, and guided tours of labs and studios can include hands-on training or group activities.
Calgary’s TELUS Spark features an array of museum exhibitions, and offers interactive studios in coding, animation, and computer graphics. Its ‘Innovative Team Builder’ exercises involve game design challenges.
Historical sites are another option and Fort Calgary has the Interpretive Centre (a reconstruction of the city’s original barracks) and Hunt House (an original trading post building from the days of fur trappers) where you can rent dining halls.
The city’s hotel inventory offers 14,000 guest rooms, and that number is expanding.
Calgary has a strong team of stakeholders keen to collaborate and bid for international conferences.
This was exemplified in the recent successful bid for the 2023 World Petroleum Congress. Meetings + Conventions Calgary worked with the local organising committee, WPC Canada, as well as the two venues, Calgary TELUS Convention Centre and the BMO Centre, and the Calgary Hotel Association and the City of Calgary were also involved in the bid.
For the WPC bid Calgary was up against Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates and Argentina. Over 5,000 global delegates are expected for a congress that will create an estimated CAD$65m in direct economic impact.
Calgary is proud of its delegate welcome, which can start at Calgary International Airport, where White Hat Volunteers are often brought in, exemplifying the Western welcoming spirit. Planners hosting in Calgary can incorporate a White Hat Ceremony into an opening event, with their delegates able to become “honorary Calgarians”. The White Hat Ceremony is a tradition that dates back to 1950.