EMMA GRANEY, EDMONTON JOURNAL 07.21.2016
The heart of the Canadian Finals Rodeo was in Edmonton, but that wasn’t enough to keep it here.
After more than 40 years, it will relocate to Saskatoon in 2017, the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association announced Thursday after signing a three-year agreement with the Saskatchewan city.
It was a difficult decision, Pascal Del Guercio from the CFR negotiating committee said Thursday, but the opportunity to remain in Edmonton “just wasn’t there.”
The redevelopment of the rodeo’s current home at Northlands meant the event needed a new space.
In May, citing concerns about prize money and sponsorship, the road association said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to a joint offer between the Oilers Entertainment Group and the City of Edmonton which would have seen the finals in the new downtown arena.
Coun. Tony Caterina, whose ward includes Northlands, said Thursday he wasn’t surprised by the Saskatoon move, but was disappointed.
He thought the proposal on the table in May “looked like a winner and a very good deal for (the rodeo association), but unfortunately the train passed and they made the decision to go to Saskatoon.”
Caterina said the economic footprint of the rodeo each November was “huge,” but said he doesn’t think its departure will have too much of a consequence for Edmonton, “because there are so many other things going on here.”
Del Guercio said moving to Saskatoon requires clearing some hurdles, but he’s optimistic that the city’s young demographic and location means it will work out.
Pointing to the agricultural college and a recent survey of Saskatoon students, half of whom said their favourite music is country, he’s convinced the city has an agricultural vibe. Plus, he said, 91,000 seats for Garth Brooks concerts sold out in minutes.
“It has a rural background and our sport is really a rural, grassroots sport,” he said.
His concern isn’t a small audience in Saskatoon, it’s “too many spectators and not enough seats for them.”
The SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon holds a few thousand less than Rexall Place Northlands, but Del Guercio said there were nights in Edmonton they didn’t need those seats anyway.
The contract will run 2017 to 2019 with an option to extend it.