‘Not about the 10 days’: Calgary Stampede looks to year-round event space

The Calgary Stampede Park will soon be full of hundreds of thousands of fairgoers for the 10-day party that begins Friday, but the grounds will hardly go quiet once the show is over.

From the Cirque du Soleil to the Global Petroleum Show, the 65 hectares of land just on the edge of downtown Calgary hosts about 1,800 events annually, said Warren Connell, CEO of the Calgary Stampede.

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    “It’s really not about the 10 days,” he said.

    “The 10 days are important. They’re critical to the city, to southern Alberta, obviously to us. But it is a year-round operation.”

    Plans are underway to make it even more of a year-round space so that Calgary can attract large conferences and boost the economy outside of oil and gas.

    Watch below: With the recent economic slump, the Calgary Stampede and many other industries are nervous, but hopeful people will come. Global’s Reid Fiest reports.

    The non-profit Calgary Stampede organization opened the $61-million Agrium Western Event Centre, a 150,000-square foot space, in 2014. In June, it finished a two-year project to revitalize the 6.5-hectare Enmax Park and started work on the 10,000-square foot TransAlta Performing Arts Studios.

    But the biggest project is yet to come, with plans to double the size of the BMO convention space, which at 265,000 square feet is already the biggest venue in the city.

    READ MORE: Calgary Stampede unveils 2016 Coca-Cola Stage lineup

    Connell said the development will cost about $500 million, and while he has not made any formal requests for public assistance, he’s been engaged with all three about the project.

    The expanded space would allow the city to host conferences like Rotary International, and compete with the major Canadian hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, said Connell. He said the expansion would create 500 full-time jobs, plus construction jobs.

    Adam Legge, CEO of the Calgary Chamber, supports the project and year-round strategy.

    “I applaud the Stampede for trying to make it more of a 365-type destination,” said Legge.

    “There’s a lot of under-utilized property in the Stampede-Victoria Park area and I think it’s really critical that they continue to try and build out their development plan to make it more of a destination, make it more lively and active.”

    READ MORE: Calgary Stampede 2016 complete concert listing

    Calgary Tourism also says the convention space is needed.

    “I actually think it’s critically important to our city to move into what we’ll call ‘A’ convention space as an economic driver,” said Cindy Ady, CEO of Calgary Tourism.

    “We would be taking all the assets that we have that come from the Stampede — their ability to host, to put on great shows, that warm western hospitality welcome, and add those to a nice business mix of conference and convention space. We think that’s a nice magic little spot to be.”


Death toll from Islamic State-claimed bombing in Baghdad climbs to 157

BAGHDAD – As the death toll from the weekend truck bombing in Baghdad climbed to 157, Iraq’s embattled prime minister ordered new security measures, including abandoning the use of bomb-detection wands that U.S. experts pronounced worthless years ago.

But security forces were still using the devices Monday evening, as a string of smaller bombings in the capital killed 16 people and wounded dozens more.

Sunday’s suicide attack by the Islamic State group was the single deadliest bombing to hit Baghdad in more than a decade of war and insurgency.

READ MORE: 28 killed, including 6 attackers, during hostage crisis in Bangladesh

Also Monday, five convicted terrorists were executed in Baghdad, the Ministry of Justice said in an announcement that appeared aimed at restoring faith in Iraq’s security forces in the wake of the devastating attack.

WATCH: Aftermath of Baghdad blast which killed dozens

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Firefighters and medical teams were still uncovering bodies from the city’s Karada neighbourhood Monday morning. Officials said a dozen people were missing and at least 60 of the dead were women and children. At least 190 people were wounded.

The blast struck after midnight when the neighbourhood was bustling with people breaking their daylight fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The attack demonstrated the Islamic State’s ability to strike the capital despite a string of defeats on the battlefield, including the loss of Fallujah just over a week ago.

READ MORE: Iraqi special forces enter centre of IS-held Fallujah

With public anger mounting, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered new security measures Sunday evening, including increased aerial scanning and intelligence-gathering in the capital and the installation of X-ray systems at the entrances of provinces.

He also ordered security forces to stop using a handheld electronic device that was widely sold as a bomb detector but has been repeatedly branded bogus by technical experts. And he ordered the reopening of an investigation into the purchase of the ADE 651s, which cost the Iraqi government tens of thousands of dollars each.

In 2010, British authorities arrested the director of the British manufacturer, ATSC Ltd., on fraud charges, prompting Iraqis to open their own investigation. Iraqi authorities made some arrests, but the device remained in use.

On Monday evening, Associated Press reporters saw a number of the devices still being used at checkpoints around the capital as another round of blasts erupted.

Many Iraqis blame their political leadership for the way large amounts of explosives have made it past multiple checkpoints into crowded neighbourhoods with disastrous results.

Small-scale bombings occur on a near-daily basis in Baghdad, and in May a string of large-scale bombings, many of them claimed by IS, killed more than 200 people in a single week.

In February, Amnesty International reported that the number of Iraqis sentenced to death in 2016 was close to 100, calling the figure a “grim indicator of the current state of justice in the country.”

Later Monday, about 10 rockets struck a refugee camp for Iranian exiles next to Baghdad’s international airport, according to a Baghdad police official. The attack killed three Iraqi policemen and wounded 13 others, according to a hospital official.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information to the media.


Outdoor theatre featuring live horses retells historic meeting in Saskatchewan

The outdoor theatrical scene at the RCMP Heritage Centre is complete with teepees, props, and even horses.

Spirit of the Trails retells the true story of a historic meeting in 1877 between the Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP) and the Chief of the Lakota Sioux.

“It’s really entertaining. There’s a lot of action. There’s comedy… drama, little bit of everything for everyone,” actor Arron Naytowhow said.

“It’s a good opportunity to learn about the history of the region.”

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The play delves back into the 1800s, explaining the alliance and meeting of Major James Walsh of the NWMP and Sitting Bull, War chief of the Lakota Sioux.

While riding horses, characters re-enacted the scene following the Battle at Little Big Horn River, and the defeat of Colonel Custer.

Despite the high expenses related to the use of the horses, playwright Ken Mitchell said it was a necessary cost.

“Horses are so expensive, but I thought no we have to do this. We need the horses involved to demonstrate what is going on in the show,” Mitchell explained.

According to the playwright, the four-legged animals helped demonstrate what life was like over a century ago.

It also showed how both First Nations Sioux and North West Mounted Police traveled.

“It’s about the relationship about the RCMP at the time and the Sioux people at the time,” Naytowhow said.

Naytowhow explained it was a challenge for many of the actors, some of whom had never ridden a horse before.

“In theatre, there’s two things you don’t work with: children and live animals,” he laughed.

TJ Bews, trainer and owner of the horses has been involved in the theatre industry for over 20 years. He said the draw for many people is simply the rare appearances of live props.

“You don’t hardly ever see, other than television or in film, where you have live props like horses or any other dogs or animals,” Bews said.

“It’s one more aspect of the play.”

The theatre has two showings every Saturday and Sunday until the end of July.

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Graffiti at Port Coquitlam daycare investigated as hate crime

The colourful spots of the Poco Dots Child Care Centre van have become a staple in Port Coquitlam.

Vandals, however, saw it as an easy target over the weekend.

“When I pulled in I was surprised to see that our van and our daycare had been hit so hard with graffiti,” said manager Dave Larocque.

Offensive, racist and homophobic messages and symbols were scrawled across the non-profit child care centre on Fernwood Avenue. Next door, the British Columbia Christian Academy and several passenger vehicles were also tagged.

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Larocque said he immediately called police on Saturday morning, who told him they were looking into the incident as a hate crime.

“Everyone is horrified,” he said. “Not just by the damage that’s occurred but again by the messages.”

Risa McLaughlin, who sends her daughter to the daycare, said this level of hatred and disrespect is tough to explain to children.

“She’s just learning to read. She’s able to sound out those terrible words on there,” she said.

The toughest blow for Poco Dots’ bottom line is the damage to its van. The value of the vehicle is likely less than the cost of a new paint job, leaving the replacement cost through insurance insufficient to purchase a similar van.

“We don’t have the money to replace vehicles and paint jobs and it’s caused a lot of stress,” said McLaughlin.

Armed with anti-graffiti solution and rags, many of the parents who benefit from the affordable childcare decided to spend their Sunday cleaning up the mess. Trying to teach their children a more positive lesson in community, the group also scraped away the markings from the Christian Academy vehicles as well.

Larocque said he’s thankful for everyone’s help, but hopes the vandals truly understand the impact of their actions.

“I don’t think any of us are mad. We’re just disappointed.”


City looks to Calgary Stampede for boost in tough economic times

When Warren Connell decided to take the reins at the Calgary Stampede two years ago, the world was a very different place.

“When I applied for this job, oil was at $105 a barrel and the same government in the province had been in place for 44 years,” said Connell.

“So I undertook a pretty big change when I took over.”

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    As CEO of the Stampede, Connell has had to steer one of Canada’s largest festivals through one of the worst economic downturns Calgary has ever experienced.

    And he’s not alone. Hotels, party planners, bars and restaurants across the city are feeling the effects of lower corporate spending from the oil and gas industry.

    READ MORE: ‘Not about the 10 days’ – Calgary Stampede looks to year-round event space

    Last year saw companies cut back on the extravagance around Stampede, due to financial constraints, not to mention the poor optics of celebrating while people were being laid off.

    Now more than two years after oil prices started plummeting, the cuts have gone deeper.

    After going ahead with big bashes last year, Peters & Co. Ltd. cancelled its Firewater Friday and FirstEnergy Capital Corp. cut its FirstRowdy event, ending decades-long runs for two of the biggest parties in town.

    READ MORE: Stampede bars say corporate spending down at least 35%

    For the Stampede itself there have been cutbacks too, with the province slashing $2 million from its operating grant to the non-profit organization. That forced Connell to cut 54 full-time positions last fall, plus further reductions on the part-time staff that help run the grounds year-round, he said.

    The Stampede, which kicks off Friday, has already lost more revenue this year. The annual auction to sell ad space on chuckwagon canvases pulled in $2.3 million, $480,000 less than last year and well off the more than $4 million it brought in a few years ago.

    READ MORE: Calgary investment dealer cancels annual Stampede bash as crude doldrums linger

    To adapt to lower spending from the energy sector, the Stampede has looked for sponsorships in other industries, like a partnership with McDonald’s promoting beef sustainability.

    “We had corporate hits in the energy world, and we were very fortunate and lucky that we were able to form partnerships that were really not economy-driven,” said Connell.

    All over the city, businesses are adjusting to fewer corporate dollars and hoping for a boost from the Stampede.

    Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of events leading up to the 2016 Calgary Stampede

    New midway food at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

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    New midway food at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

01:38

Sneak peek at the prizes available in the 2016 Calgary Stampede Lotteries

02:05

Paul Brandt and Jann Arden 2016 Calgary Stampede Parade marshals

03:16

2016 Calgary Stampede canvas auction

01:50

CMLC signs agreement for Calgary Stampede expansion



At Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub, Stuart Allan said corporate bookings are down, and he doesn’t expect companies that have booked to spend like they used to.

“We’re somewhat concerned about that,” said Allan.

“I suspect the corporate bookings that we have, many of them may not be prepared to be quite so freewheeling in their expenses as they have been in the past.”

But he’s still getting ready for what he hopes will be a successful Stampede, banking on more walk-in business from hotels and smaller groups of partiers.

He is looking to double his staff with 35 temporary hires, but despite a jump in Calgary’s unemployment rate from 4.6 per cent in January 2015 to over eight per cent in recent months, he said it’s been hard to find experienced people.

The extra people are needed because he expects about three times the regular business over the two weeks around Stampede.

“There’s absolutely no question that Stampede is hugely important to our overall business,” said Allan. “It's Christmas, Christmas in July.”

Hotels are also banking on a boost from the Stampede after getting hit hard by the drop in corporate bookings.

Dave Kaiser, CEO of the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association, said on a revenue-per-room measure, Calgary’s hotels are down 25 per cent from last year.

“It’s fallen off dramatically,” said Kaiser. “It’s definitely tough times for hoteliers in Calgary.”

He said in the past, many hotels were fully booked and visitors found it difficult to find a room. This year, travellers will find better rates as hotels hope to bring in some much-needed business during the Stampede, said Kaiser.

“Just from speaking anecdotally with some hoteliers, they’re still optimistic that it’s going to be another strong Stampede week,” said Kaiser.

Connell is also looking for a silver lining amid the gloom, saying local ticket sales are encouraging and the boost in U.S. travellers from the low Canadian dollar will help.

For Connell, who started working at the Stampede more than 30 years ago in security, the event allows Calgary to show what’s it made of, from its cultural diversity to its resilience in tough times.

He said the highlight of his time with the Stampede was when the city rallied in 2013 after the floods to keep the show going.

“I really think it showed the country and it showed the world what can happen when a community gets together,” said Connell.