Year-round livestock shows and other agricultural events could become a highlight of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, as a result of expansion plans which will include a permanent indoor show ring.
The new $20-million building would replace the temporary outdoor show ring now housed in a canvas tent known as the Big Top.
The tent is primarily used during the Stampede for livestock shows, stock dog trials and equestrian demonstrations.
“We’ve basically outgrown the facilities we have,” said Don Stewart, Stampede agriculture manager.
The proposed 95,000 sq.-ft. building would include 100 box stalls, in addition to the 400 stalls that now exist in the Stampede agriculture pavilion, built more than 50 years ago.
“We need a more professional presentation. We need to upgrade with heating, better seating, concessions and more staff,” Stewart said.
“We need a year-round facility so we can hold events in the winter. Right now, no one wants to show in the tent after October.”
Additional stalls are long overdue, with cattle-penning competitors often unloading their horses outside the arena, competing in the event and then loading up again. This year, an increase in sheep entries has officials scrambling for space.
The new facility would include a restricted area where livestock and equipment could enter without having to manoeuvre through crowds.
At present, wagons and cattle and horses are weaving through a public walkway to get from the barns to the show arena.
An anonymous donor has contributed $1 million towards the project, with the remainder of the funds to be raised, Stewart said. It is not known when the expansion will take place.
Some exhibitors would prefer the new facility be built on the city’s outskirts, eliminating traffic congestion associated with trailering livestock into the inner city Stampede Park.
About 1,600 people, representing more than 30 countries, register as international visitors at the agriculture pavilion, he said.
During Stampede, more than 1,000 exhibitors are involved in more than 70 international stock show events and educational displays, Stewart said.
A survey four years ago indicated 39 per cent of the Stampede’s visitors attend the agriculture events.
The 10-day Stampede has its roots in agriculture, with the city holding its first agricultural fair in 1886.
Its annual livestock shows gave producers the opportunity to showcase their animals, as well as encouraging wealthy businessmen who were moving West from Eastern Canada to invest in the ranching industry.
The Stampede became part of the Exhibition crop and livestock show in 1923. Preserving this agricultural heritage continues to be the driving force behind the Stampede, Stewart said.