18 PCMA CONVENE SEPTEMBER 2014 PCMA.ORG
PLENARY Calgary + Wired for Sound
The Stampede dates back to 1912, long before Calgary was
a booming oil and gas center with a skyline of glimmering
office buildings. When the opening day arrives, residents
break out their cowboy boots, take the day off, and ready
themselves for an ongoing party of concerts, pancake breakfasts, chuck-wagon races, and revelry.
After the 20-minute ride from the airport — which is
undergoing a CAN $2.1-billion runway and terminal expan-
sion — we arrived at the 407-room Fairmont Palliser Hotel.
The night before the opening Stampede parade, the lobby
had an elegant hush befitting a lovingly tended 100-year-old
property. When we stepped from the elevators at 7: 45 the
next morning, that same lobby had been transformed into a
rambunctious party with live country-western music, straw
bales, Bloody Mary stations, and hundreds of celebrants in
cowboy hats. This was the Fairmont’s annual parade-day
breakfast, and it was one of the hottest tickets in town.
After feasting on spit-roasted pork, party-goers crowded
the front of the hotel to watch actor William Shatner cruise
by on a baby-blue convertible, followed by marching bands
and floats that would snake their way through downtown
for hours. Upstairs, the hotel’s 13 meeting spaces were eerily
quiet, as few Calgarians were holding 12-person board meetings, 320-person sit-down dinners, or 450-person presentations on parade day.
Many of Calgary’s hotels are clustered downtown, within
walking distance of the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre,
as well as each other. A total of 1, 100 of those rooms are
linked by enclosed, climate-controlled skyways — called the
+ 15 — that enable pedestrians to avoid winter’s chill on their
way to shops, restaurants, or the 122,000-square-foot con-
vention center, with its 47,000-square-foot exhibition space
and string of more intimate meeting rooms.
Although Calgary has a distinct business-first sensibility,
its hotels don’t conform to a particular template — they’re
wildly divergent in their respective vibes. While the Calgary
Marriott Downtown Hotel may be one of the city’s longtime
standard-bearers — it has 384 rooms and 9,571 square feet of
meeting space spread across 19 meeting rooms — the hotel is
undergoing a radical renovation that will make it one of the
first Marriott properties in North America to debut the hotel
company’s new look. A few blocks way, the 525 rooms of the
Westin Calgary are all modern lines and muted tones, and its
23,000 square feet of meeting space is wind-powered. The
Delta Bow Valley, also downtown, pairs spectacular farm-to-table food with 394 rooms and 11 meeting spaces, while the
soaring, sandstone-lined lobby of the Hyatt Regency Calgary
is filled with Western art and serves as a jumping-off point
to 355 guest rooms, 33,000 square feet of meeting space, and
Catch restaurant — where the chef flies in fresh seafood and
uses produce and honey from the hotel’s rooftop garden.
More moderately priced, the International Hotel Calgary —
with 248 spacious suites and upper-floor meeting space — has
served Calgary travelers since 1970.
The city isn’t without its boutique hotels, either. In the
midst of downtown is the brand-new Hotel Le Germain