Calgary Stampede’s new bridge wins Award of Merit for innovative design

A new bridge that spans the Elbow River, from main Stampede Park to the Stampede’s new ENMAX Park, was recognized by the Consulting Engineers of Alberta (CEA) for its thoughtful design that accommodates western lifestyle and flood resistance. The bridge was completed in June 2015, just in time for Stampede, to replace the old “blue bridge” that was lost during the flood of 2013.

Members of the bridge construction team accepting the CEA’s Award of Merit

Members of the bridge construction team accepting the CEA’s Award of Merit

I spoke with Mark Bowen of Read Jones Chistoffersen Ltd. who accepted the award on behalf of the team and he told me about the planning and construction of the new bridge, and how the design accommodates all of the bridge’s different users.

The bridge connects Stampede Park’s ENMAX Park with the main land. Photo by Roy Ooms.

The bridge connects Stampede Park’s ENMAX Park with the main land. Photo by Roy Ooms.

Protecting the river while protecting Stampede Park from flooding

Based on its location across the Elbow River’s floodway, the new bridge was to be as flood-proof as possible. “Normal practice in bridge design is to lift the bridge deck above the flood level to minimize obstructions in the river. This project presented unique challenges in the mitigation of flood flows and the design of the deck to withstand the applied loads from flood conditions,” Bowen explained.

The team decided on a clear-span design in preference to installing a pier in the river so that the waters can flow through without facing obstruction from a pier. During construction of the bridge, the team made sure to not disrupt the river. “The most significant struggle we faced was controlling the movement of the steel arch while the concrete deck (the deck is the walking surface) was constructed. Our designers worked with Graham Construction to develop a staged construction sequence that allowed Graham to avoid temporary supports in the river channel,” described Bowen.

The bridge also features demountable handrails that fold down to accommodate high-pressure flowing waters and specifically measured ramps on either side so that water can flow across without flowing back down to drown Stampede Park. So while the Stampede can’t promise avoiding a flood all together, we can promise the bridge is better equipped than its predecessor to withstand potential flooding.

Guest experience

With the expansion to ENMAX Park, a new entry to Stampede Park was needed (the MacDonald Entry for Stampede 2016). The crossing also needed to make each guest feel immediately connected to the Stampede. The new bridge brings this thought to life through its western look and feel, and sense of flare and pageantry that represents the spirit of the Stampede.

The bridge connects Stampede’s ENMAX Park to its main land, across the Elbow River. Photo by Roy Ooms.

The bridge connects Stampede’s ENMAX Park to its main land, across the Elbow River. Photo by Roy Ooms.

The Stampede’s four legged friends and their riders

Parades and grand entries are no stranger to the Stampede. This is why the bridge required a new design to accommodate both horses and their riders. The bridge’s designers discovered that they also needed to take into consideration the flags that accompany a horse and rider in such presentations. This is why the bridge’s bracing members for the tall steel arch are located high above the bridge deck – so horses, their riders and the giant flags they carry can all pass underway with comfort.

A comparative look at the height of the arch with a standard park bench. Photo by Roy Ooms.

A comparative look at the height of the arch with a standard park bench. Photo by Roy Ooms.

Stampede Park’s maintenance crew

Transporting large flower pots, snow and ice removal machines, and more can be quite heavy and is integral to maintaining Stampede Park’s aesthetics and western authenticity. The ability to support maintenance vehicles was another consideration for the design team and the arch helped with this need. This design is extremely effective at balancing and minimizing flexural load effects and keeps the bridge sturdy for passing and protects the bridge to withstand reoccurring heavy loads over time.

Every aspect of the bridge was carefully considered to achieve the Stampede’s various needs. Photo by Roy Ooms.

Every aspect of the bridge was carefully considered to achieve the Stampede’s various needs. Photo by Roy Ooms.

When all was said and done, and the bridge was designed, constructed, and in use, the team felt a sense of accomplishment. Winning the CEA’s Award of Merit was a true honour for work well done. “I was incredibly proud to receive the Award on behalf of the project team. The Award demonstrated the recognition of the engineering community for the unique solutions and great teamwork that was applied to the project,” shared Bowen.

Consultants of Read Jones Christoffersen teamed up with members from the Calgary Stampede, AMEC Foster Wheeler, Designcore and Chris Roberts, all under Lawson Project’s management, with Graham Construction’s worker dedication, to create the new bridge, proving again that we are Greatest Together.

Comments are closed.