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Connell started working at the Calgary Stampede in 1984 and eventually became head of operations. In 1995, he was the Stampede’s liaison for the World’s Fair bid. He took the reins as CEO in 2015.
Stampede communications manager Kristina Barnes said the organization plans to recognize Connell and his contributions to Calgary in the new year.
Coun. Ward Sutherland, who sits on the Stampede board, said Connell’s passing is a profound loss for the city.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” he said, noting he worked closely with Connell on discussions about the $500-million BMO Centre expansion on the Stampede grounds.
“He was the perfect example of the culture and the generosity of the Stampede, the western culture,” Sutherland said.
“When you see Warren, you go, ‘He is the Stampede.’ Boy, is he the brand.”
Coun. Jyoti Gondek, who also sits on the Stampede board, added that Connell was a thoughtful leader.
“The way he worked with the Indigenous community in Calgary to make sure Stampede was respectful and appreciative — I’ve rarely seen that. He was a great guy.”