Edmonton could lose Canadian Finals Rodeo as cowboys reject offer from OEG-led partnership

 

The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association has turned down an offer from local organizers that Oilers Entertainment Group president Bob Nicholson says was worth $4.46 million. (File)

 

 

BY TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

Maybe it’s brinksmanship.

Maybe it’s calling their bluff.

But if it isn’t, and you should be worried that it isn’t, the 2017 Canadian Finals Rodeo — after 43 consecutive years in Edmonton — will be likely be held in Vancouver or Saskatoon.

Tuesday the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association rejected the March 1 deadline final offer from the Oilers Entertainment Group, City of Edmonton, Northlands and other partners. And last night, your correspondent learned, they informed the CPRA they’re out.

While it’s important to emphasize that this was a collective move by all partners, not just OEG, last night OEG chairman and CEO Bob Nicholson spoke of the rodeo in the past tense.

“I want the people to understand the lengths we went to get a deal done to keep the rodeo in Edmonton and how important we believe the rodeo is to this city. If that was not the case, this day would have come sooner than it did.

“But the bottom line is that it was the third time we went back and added to an offer which we already believed was exceptional in a lot of different directions.”

Nicholson said OEG may have just said no to the rodeo that Edmonton took from crayons to perfume but they weren’t going to turn their back on Farm Fair.

“We believe the Farm Fair at Northlands is important to preserve even if it no longer makes any sense to be negotiating the rodeo and I can guarantee you that OEG will go out of our way to program our week in Rogers Place to complement that.”

The expectation would be a week of major country and western concerts and quite likely the creation of a major bull-busting event.

“We’ve done a lot of different things to keep finding ways of improving the deal. We’re now taking our latest proposal off the table.”

End of the CFR in Edmonton?

“To us, right now, it is,” said Nicholson.

The OEG chairman said he wants Edmonton, Northern Alberta and rodeo fans around the province to know the complete details of the offer the CPRA rejected.

“The old purse, at Northlands, was $1.589 million. Our offer was two million.

”The old total for the stock contract was $540,000. Our offer was $750,000.

“The housing fee or rights fee for the event at Northlands was $68,000. Our offer was $300,000.”

Nicholson said the City of Edmonton also stepped up to the table in a big way.

“Through OEG and the City contributions, we were able to get the purse/stock contract up to $3.25 million.

“The total proposal went from a value of $3.1 million to $4.46 million.

“Above that, in the last offer, we added 100% of the merchandising.

“But the really frustrating part of it all was what we offered beyond that. It was like they had no interest in any of it than just the money on the table, like they had no interest in the vision and what it could mean down the road.”

Nicholson said he believed what the rodeo cowboys needed the most was to dramatically improve sponsorship.

“To do that, you have to have television. We offered our people, who have a pretty good track record with sponsorships, to work on that. I don’t know a better group out there.

“I put together a TV deal very similar to the one I used to build the World Junior,” said the former president of Hockey Canada.

The item he said OEG really went overboard on was to improve the experience of the event for the competitors themselves.

He said the plan included to provide suites and loge hospitality areas for the families, a family room at arena level for them and more.

“It would have been the same calibre of facilities for them that we provide the Oilers. It was going to be a situation in a brand new building that truly would have been exception for the cowboys. I couldn’t think of another thing we could have done to improve it.”

So Vancouver? Or Saskatoon?

While Calgary twice before tried to rustle Edmonton’s rodeo, there’s every evident Calgary isn’t trying to do that this time. Saskatoon, from everything I’ve learned, is soft on the concept.

Most of the cowboys are from Alberta. Almost all of the fans are from Alberta. If the negotiating committee has something in their pocket from Vancouver that can beat the deal OEG had rejected Tuesday, Nicholson is basically telling them to fill their cowboy boots.

“We just had enough of the negotiation against ourselves. We’re done with it.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

@sunterryjones