City of Edmonton's decision not to submit CFR bid leaves event homeless after 2016


Bob Nicholson says the OEG and Canadian Finals Rodeo can work together to grow the CFR's audience and television presence. (David Bloom)



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There’s an old rodeo expression.

“Thar ain’t never been a horse that’s never been rode and thar ain’t never been a cowboy that’s never been throw’d.”

Well, thar ain’t never been a collection of cowboys that ever got throw’d like the ones who got throw’d out of Edmonton Thursday.

At 11 a.m. Mayor Don Iveson made it official that there would be no bid to keep to keep the Canadian Finals Rodeo here.

At noon, Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Bob Nicholson unveiled plans for a 10-day Western Festival of events to replace it. Included is a five-year deal with the Professional Bull Riding to replace the CFR, a week of the biggest names in country and western music acts and the intent to ask the NHL to make a Calgary Flames-Edmonton Oilers game a staple on the schedule, much like the Labour Day Classic.

By the end of the day, the CFR was not only gone, it very much looked like it might have nowhere to go.

Saskatoon didn’t announce their out, exactly, but they most assuredly didn’t say they were bidding and there was no indication of a bid forthcoming like the bid Dan Eddy and the cowboys rejected from OEG on March 1.

Eddy’s idea, I’m sure, was that the CFR meant too much to the economy of Edmonton for the mayor and city council not to cave in. And I’m sure that Eddy, the head of the rodeo cowboys association, figured the optics of taxpayers putting up so much money toward the building of Rogers Place only to have CEO Nicholson turn away the CFR really wouldn’t happen, when push came to shove.

Well, push came to shove and Edmonton told them to shove it.

I wish to amend the words I wrote yesterday.

“The rodeo cowboys proved they don’t have the brains of the critters they ride and rope, and the decision made by Dan Eddy and the CPRA made back on March 1st will rank right up there with the decision by Earl’s Restaurants to ban Alberta beef.”

Earl’s might rebound from their mistake now that Alberta beef is back on their tables. But does anybody believe the CFR will find a future like the final offer from OEG, with significantly increased prize money and a partnership proposal to grow it into a TV event and partnership for sponsorship?

All Eddy seemed interested in was a much bigger pile of prize money, period. And if somebody is going to provide it, they’re sure being shy about it.

“After months of deliberation it was determined that we could not improve on the bid,” said Iveson of the then OEG-led proposal that Eddy and the cowboys rejected March 1.

“From our perspective the bid we made in February was a strong bid with opportunities to grow the sport with a partnership as well as a substantial increase in prize money,” said Iveson.

He said to go beyond the previous bid “would expose city taxpayers to significant financial risk” and that the rodeo cowboys essentially wanted a “revenue guarantee and all of the upside. To expect the city to take promoter risks but also not to get any of the upside if the event is successful is not only not fair, but not an acceptable risk for the taxpayers of Edmonton.”

Mayor Iveson telegraphed the possible Saskatoon decision.

“We understand that some of the other cities that were really eager to take this event away are less eager to bid for some of the same reasons that our council decided not to bid.”

He made the point with where Edmonton is going now taxpayers are off the hook for all that rodeo money.

“The city would not have to contribute as we did with CFR in terms of the purse and sponsorship. At less cost to the city, we could see an equal or greater set of entertainment and sports in the city.”

I’m not sure where the 2017 CFR is going to end up, but I know it won’t be in a building anything like Rogers Place or for anything resembling the deal, and especially the partnership opportunity, Dan Eddy and the rodeo cowboys turned down.

Maybe the cowboys figured they could just sacrifice Eddy and the board, elect new leaders, and simply go back to OEG and the City of Edmonton and start over.

Instead, it is over.

There’s no going back.

The Nov. 9-13 Canadian Finals Rodeo will be the last one where it was born and raised, where it was embraced and celebrated as an important part of the culture of the community, and where there was a fabulous future to go forward to in an incredible new venue, if they only weren’t too bullheaded to see it.