Airdrie's Jake Vold gets bucked off in the bareback event of the 2015 Canadian Finals Rodeo on November 14, 2015.
LARRY WONG/EDMONTON JOURNAL
Riding off into the sunset? Or roping in a new generation of fans in Edmonton?
Some of the dust will clear off on May 5, when bids to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo beginning in 2017 are due at the offices of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association in Airdrie.
Calgary is already out of the running, roping and riding.
“We said we were going to have a look at it. We did. We just made a determination at this point that we have other priorities and other major event bids in motion,” said Marco de Iaco, executive-director of the Calgary Sport Tourism Authority. “We’re not going to be submitting a bid.”
Vancouver and Winnipeg were never in the ring. Ditto for Abbotsford, B.C.
Saskatoon recently hosted a site visit by CPRA officials, who are considering a last-minute bid if market research convinces them they can draw between 10,000 and 11,000 fans for each of the six CFR performances. They need rodeo fans to make the trek from Alberta, Manitoba and all over Saskatchewan, and that’s a real concern.
“There is no technical reason why Saskatoon could not host. It’s a matter of the market and hitting our numbers. We’d love to have it but it has to make sense,” said Todd Brandt, CEO of Tourism Saskatoon.
And what about Edmonton, where the CFR has been a staple since 1974?
As of Friday afternoon, there is no bid.
A source with knowledge of the discussions going on at city hall — Mayor Don Iveson is now the point person on the file — said it’s only a 50-50 proposition. If a bid comes from Edmonton next week, it will be issued by the city, not by the Oilers Entertainment Group. However, the city would need the co-operation and consent of OEG, who would have to provide Rogers Place as the venue.
“We continue to review the RFP from the CPRA to determine the most appropriate response,” said OEG spokesman Tim Shipton. “There are complexities in the RFP that do present some challenges.”
He wouldn’t divulge their nature, but you can bet many are financial. Bob Nicholson, the CEO of OEG, made it clear in March that they won’t be improving their final offer, which was rejected by CPRA executives including GM Dan Eddy. Essentially, the CPRA rejected a partnership proposal from the OEG, who wanted to grow the marketing and television potential of the event.
Those CPRA execs also weren’t happy with the financial value of the deal. So, does the city have to sweeten the pot? Iveson’s spokesman Bin Lau wouldn’t address the financial issue. He said in an e-mail on Thursday that “work remains underway.”
The city has to do what it can, within reason, to retain the event. If the cost is seen as too high and there is no bid, or if the CPRA chooses another venue, the OEG will happily fill their downtown building with a Professional Bull Riders event or, and this is perhaps more interesting, a big-money rodeo that isn’t sanctioned by the CPRA.
Sources in Edmonton and throughout the Alberta rodeo community say those alternatives to CFR are being discussed, and in fact both could be on the horizon for Rogers Place sooner than later.
“We’re committed to looking at any and all opportunities to ensure complementary programming to Farmfair,” said Shipton.
Farmfair International, an agricultural sale and trade show, operates independently from CFR. It brings in an international mix of animal breeders, grain growers, equipment and technology manufacturers, and draws good crowds to the Edmonton Northlands grounds.
It’s in the Edmonton Expo Centre from Nov. 9-13, the same time as the CFR descends on Northlands Coliseum. Yes, Northlands Coliseum. The Rexall Place name plate will come off the building Sept. 1, since the naming rights deal will have expired. After recent public consultation, Northlands abandoned the Northlands Ice Coliseum moniker.
Northlands had been co-operating with the OEG and the city during exclusive contract negotiations with the CPRA, but haven’t been involved in current talks regarding a new bid.
A letter circulated to CPRA personnel and some media on Friday suggested that negotiations with the OEG were not conducted to the satisfaction of all CPRA board members.
“Questions are being raised by the board as to how or why the OEG proposal was voted down when the details were never disclosed to the board,” said the unsigned letter. “Board members that have requested the details of the proposal have been denied. A press release stated that the proposal was unanimously voted down by the board, and this is not accurate.”
The CPRA will not comment on the negotiations or the bid process.
“As I’m sure you can understand, these negotiations are of a very high stakes nature and we are bound by the Request for Proposal instructions, which require confidentiality,” director of marketing Katy Lucas wrote in an e-mail.