Home to a booming live music scene, diverse culinary offerings, world-class theatre, and more green spaces than any other Canadian city, Calgary — Canada’s fourth-largest city — is the perfect blend of big-city vibrancy, warm hospitality, and unexpected experiences.
There are a billion reasons why Calgary is earning its reputation as the ultimate host city, but the driving factor is the CAD$1 billion investment into its meetings and events infrastructure, which includes downtown revitalization projects, investments in the arts and culture infrastructure and off-site venues, and an expansion of the public transportation system. To make downtown more vibrant, the city is shifting beyond a traditional 9-to-5 business district mentality to become a 24/7 hub of retail, entertainment, tourism, culture, and more.
One way to drive this type of evolution: access to arts and culture. When Glenbow at the JR Shaw Centre for Arts & Culture reopens, it will serve as an anchor for downtown, with eight floors free and accessible to the public and a fifth-floor roof terrace overlooking the heart of downtown. As Irfhan Rawji, Glenbow Reimagined Campaign Co-Chair, puts it: “The revitalized Glenbow is going to have an outsized impact on downtown Calgary. It will be a tent pole to show the cultural revitalization happening in this city; it is a tangible example of us investing in our future.”
Historic Stephen Avenue — a pedestrian-friendly walkway in the centre of downtown — is already crowned by the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre (CTCC), which is directly connected to Glenbow and offers more than 11,300 sqm of meeting space. In addition to 1,100 hotel rooms and a variety of shopping and restaurants, the CTCC is also linked to the largest indoor pedestrian pathway network in the world, the Plus 15 Network, so planners organizing events at the CTCC can guarantee easy access to the surrounding downtown amenities.
In summer, the Stephen Avenue Walk offers a built-in wellness break to stretch your legs between meetings or events and admire public art, including the world’s tallest building mural by acclaimed German graffiti artist DAIM. In the winter months, the Plus 15 comes in handy, since the indoor heated walkways connect more than 100 buildings, and there are plenty of options for indoor attractions, such as Arts Commons, the largest performing arts space of its kind in western Canada.
Earlier this year, the CTCC unveiled its new brand built around a commitment to masterfully designed events. It starts with understanding how to create authentic and meaningful experiences within the city; developing a story for any event so that it becomes “an opportunity to explore and imagine the possibilities,” providing quintessential hospitality and delivering a distinct vision to create tailor-made events; and aligning with global efforts to effect meaningful change and champion positive impact.
Collective responsibility is one philosophy that associations can tap into in order to drive real change in both the host destination and their respective industry. The CTCC has made a commitment to community a part of its culture and champions causes and initiatives that impact more than the events and experiences happening inside the building. By aligning an event with a convention centre that is committed to community and reducing its environmental impact, these philosophies trickle into the design of a conference.
The CTCC is already showing its support for a variety of causes. It’s reduced electrical consumption thanks to the use of solar panels; received the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA) Clean Air Award for the quality of indoor air; became Green Key Certified last year as a result of its strong environmental programmes and practices; and was the first Rainbow Registered convention centre in Canada, an accreditation that recognizes high standards for 2SLGBTQI+ friendly workplaces and businesses. As Kurby Court, President and CEO of the CTCC, explains: “As an organization that is a community hub for our city, it was important for us to become Rainbow Registered. This is only one step we are taking to ensure our employees, clients and those attending events at the centre feel safe and welcomed. We will continue to educate ourselves and have access to the necessary tools we need to create an inclusive environment for all.”
Working together with Tourism Calgary, the CTCC can help associations incorporate this level of community into their own events and provide services to make sure the experience and event are as seamless and inclusive as possible.