Calgary Herald

COVID saddles Stampede with $26.5M loss for 2020


In a year that saw the first cancellati­on of its signature summer event in 108 years, the Calgary Stampede was saddled with $26.5 million in red ink in 2020.

That result came even after nearly $16 million in government COVID -19 aid and grants, and follows a $2.2 million in excess revenue over expenses in 2019.

The unpreceden­ted cancellati­on led to a $3.1-million loss on the 10-day rodeo and midway bash last year, compared with $24 million in black ink in 2019 — a deficit offset by $57 million savings on expenses.

Gross revenue over the 10 days of Stampede was $85 million in 2019, a number that dropped to just $307,000 in 2020.

Revenue from facility rentals and event services tumbled from $35.5 million in 2019 to $7.87 million last year.

The fiscal challenges “could jeopardize the Calgary Stampede's ability to continue as a going concern,” said the non-profit's annual report.

“Public health orders and the current economic environmen­t have and may continue to have significan­t adverse impacts on the Calgary Stampede.”

Those effects could also include the Stampede's failure to meet its debt obligation­s and increased restructur­ing costs, says the report, which expresses uncertaint­y about how it'll proceed with the July 2021 celebratio­n amid the “rapidly evolving and dynamic circumstan­ces” of the ongoing pandemic.

A year ago, the organizati­on temporaril­y laid off 80 per cent of its staff, or 890 people, in a year made even more trying by the death in December of CEO Warren Connell.

Though a spokespers­on wasn't available Tuesday, the Stampede said in a statement it would be confrontin­g financial headwinds for years to come.

“Like many in our community, the Stampede will have financial challenges to overcome in the coming year, in light of the pandemic,” it said.

But the $500-million BMO Centre expansion remains on schedule for a 2024 completion, they said.

Details aren't yet available for a possible return to a normal 10-day celebratio­n, but “we can expect that it will likely look very different,” said the exhibition.

“We are reviewing operating guidelines and working with various levels of government and health officials on specific measures to host the best and safest possible Stampede, July 9 to 18.”

Hundreds of vendors “likely have been impacted” by the cancellati­on of the Stampede and other fairs, said the statement.

“We are working with them and are optimistic about 2021 and beyond,” said the Stampede.

As for further Alberta government assistance to the Stampede, last week's provincial budget estimates grants to major fairs in 2021-22 will fall to $6.8 million from $9 million the previous year.

“We continue to work with our government partners and to identify strategic solutions to overcome these financial challenges,” said the Stampede.

While not surprising, the Stampede's fiscal situation “makes very clear the uphill climb ahead of it … rebuilding becomes that much more difficult,” said Cindy Ady, CEO of Tourism Calgary.

The provincial and federal government­s should financiall­y backstop the Stampede to ensure its viability, she said, given its importance to Calgary's economy and social fabric.

The annual event has such wide spinoffs that it constitute­s onethird of the revenue generated by the city's hospitalit­y industry, said Ady.

“If we have to have a very muted Stampede again, it's critical and huge to have some attention paid to it (by government­s),” she said.

“The Stampede is a huge contributo­r to this industry, an industry that creates a tremendous return on investment.”

Ady said she remains confident there'll be some form of government assistance regardless of the budget numbers on supporting major festivals.

COVID-19'S effect on the tourism industry at the height of the summer season last year was so severe that “if hotel occupancy made it into double digits, they were lucky,” she said.

The rate of COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns will be a crucial factor in the Stampede's fate in the coming months, Ady added.

Provincial officials agreed, also saying any move to allow large gatherings this summer — part of the province's Phase 4 of reopening — is also dependent on COVID-19 case numbers.

“We still can't know what the case growth might be in the coming months,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“We are committed to working with these organizati­ons so they do at least have the best informatio­n.”

Alberta is currently in Phase 2 of its reopening plan.

The Stampede's fiscal situation “makes very clear the uphill climb ahead of it ... rebuilding becomes much more difficult.

 ?? DARREN MAKOWICHUK ?? The Calgary Stampede has reported losses of $26.5 million due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
DARREN MAKOWICHUK The Calgary Stampede has reported losses of $26.5 million due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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