BMO Centre Expansion Design Elements | The C+E

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As the BMO Centre’s dramatic expansion nears completion, we’re showcasing aspects of the building’s architecture, design and construction that will elevate the distinctive character and enhance the global appeal of Western Canada’s largest, newest convention venue.

In this feature, we spotlight some special design elements that pay homage to the Calgary Stampede’s 138-year history and celebrate the authentic western spirit that resides at the heart of the organization: the leather-wrapped doors that open into the breathtaking Brand Room, the Neon Cowboy that graces the expansion’s front-of-house, and the massive fireplace in the expansion’s central gathering space.

As the development manager overseeing the delivery of the $500-million BMO Centre expansion, CMLC worked closely with the Calgary Stampede and with the project design team—Stantec, Populous and S2—to identify these defining design elements and procure the teams to bring the vision to life.

“Each element has a unique story behind it, and together they help create the story of the place,” says Georgette McGrath-Jukic, CMLC’s Director of Projects. “These are the special details that will make people’s experiences of the building incredibly memorable.”

Countdown to Completion: BMO Centre Expansion, Design Elements

The Brand Room’s Leather-Wrapped Doors

A rendering of the Brand Room inside the BMO Centre expansion with the leather wrapped door created by Alberta Boot Co. in the background.

Boasting a private 11,000-square-foot outdoor patio overlooking Stampede Park, the Brand Room is one of the BMO Centre’s new bookable gathering spaces.

To create a grand and impressive sense of arrival into the Brand Room, CMLC and the Calgary Stampede partnered with the Alberta Boot Company to wrap the room’s towering doors in polished black leather bearing Alberta Boot’s signature Calgary stitch.

“Emblazoned with the iconic stitch that’s become a symbol of the modern west, the Brand Room doors tell a compelling story of Calgary’s western heritage and its enduring western spirit,” says Federica Fiorotto, Alberta Boot’s Manager of Brand & Event Marketing. “They create a sense of intrigue as to what lies beyond the doors and foreshadow the ambience of the Brand Room, which includes charred wood panelling.”

The wall to the right of the leather-wrapped doors will be adorned with the branding marks of the Calgary Stampede’s ‘Big Four’ founders: Patrick Burns, George Lane, A. E. Cross and A.J. McLean.

A Modern Expression of the Familiar ‘Neon Cowboy’

A rendering of the reimagined ‘Neon Cowboy’ inside the BMO Centre expansion.

One of the most memorable features of the Stampede Corral—the beloved venue where Calgarians enjoyed hockey games, wrestling matches, concerts and other events for nearly 75 years—was the hat-waving ‘Neon Cowboy’ on the Corral’s front facade.

When the Corral was taken down in 2021 to make way for the BMO Centre expansion, the original Neon Cowboy could not be reclaimed. However, a laser scan of the original artwork made it possible to recreate the piece for the new BMO Centre.

“Once a beacon for concerts, hockey games, Olympic events, rodeos and more, the Stampede Corral’s Neon Cowboy witnessed decades of events and celebrations. It is now being reimagined as a marquee installation in the expanded BMO Centre,” says Kerri Souriol, the Calgary Stampede’s Director of Park Development. “The re-envisioned Neon Cowboy will exude of our community spirit and western hospitality as we welcome the world to Stampede Park and the expanded BMO Centre in 2024 and beyond.”

To bring the vision of the new Neon Cowboy to life, CMLC and the Calgary Stampede partnered with Heavy—a Calgary company that’s been designing, fabricating and installing world-class placemaking features since 2003.

“For the Neon Cowboy,” explains Connor Hayduk, Heavy’s Director of Creative, “the team explored many ways of creating an impactful piece—materiality, construction details, finishes…. We ultimately opted for blackened laser-cut steel combined with back-mounted LED lights that project the colours of the original artwork. The result is an ‘old school’ aesthetic with a distinctively modern flair.”

Recreated at approximately the same scale as the original, this nostalgic installation will adorn the wall above the BMO Centre’s concierge desk and near the primary escalator—a high-traffic corridor on the expansion’s main level.

Canada’s Largest Indoor Fireplace

A rendering of the Exchange in the BMO Centre expansion with many people in the common space and Canada's largest fireplace
A rendering of Canada’s largest fireplace inside the BMO Centre expansion.

Heavy was also enlisted to construct the enormous liquid vapour fireplace that will anchor The Exchange—the expansion’s central gathering space. Twenty-one metres tall, it will stand out as Canada’s largest indoor fireplace.

Envisioned by the design team at Populous as a place to gather, connect and converse, the fireplace is intended to evoke the feeling of gathering around the campfire for warmth and the exchange of ideas.

“To complement the aesthetic of other design elements within the building and the Calgary Stampede’s western heritage, the fireplace is made from blackened laser-cut steel with an inlay of copper—gritty materials that hark back to the spirit and the craft of the western blacksmith,” says Kerri.

As the expansion nears its completion, the team eagerly anticipates welcoming visitors for Stampede 2024 to experience the distinctive design elements that capture the community spirit of the Calgary Stampede.

Stay tuned for more spotlights as we count down to the grand opening of the BMO Centre expansion.

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