Breaking News: Edmonton won't bid for Canadian Finals Rodeo


More from Dan Barnes, Edmonton Journal

Published on: May 4, 2016 | Last Updated: May 4, 2016 9:51 PM MDT

Rodeo done in Edmonton?

From March 2016: Mayor Don Iveson responds to the news that 2016 could mark the end of Canadian Finals Rodeo in the city.


There will not be a bid from Edmonton for the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

A source with knowledge of the city’s decision on the file has confirmed that council on Wednesday decided to forego a bid to the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association prior to the Thursday deadline. A statement from Mayor Don Iveson is expected Thursday or Friday.

It means that this year’s CFR will be the last one in Edmonton, at least for awhile. If that comes as a disappointment, that’s understandable. Encountering herds of cowboys and cowgirls in the downtown core each November was as much a rite of winter as frozen windshield wipers and ice fog.

If this development also comes as a shock, it really shouldn’t. The proponents of this tale — the CPRA, the city and the Oilers Entertainment Group — have been in a strange, strained relationship for months, and the action behind the chutes, so to speak, has worked against an agreement. There has been a disconnect between the CPRA’s new management, the OEG and the city.

It appears the CPRA has placed a value on the CFR that is hard for venue owners and host cities to reconcile with market data collected over the life of the event here. And just to be perfectly clear, Edmonton isn’t the only venue struggling with the math. Calgary crunched the numbers and did not bid. Tourism Saskatoon was still working on the file Wednesday afternoon and is not 100 per cent committed to a bid yet.

“We’re still waiting on confirmation of budget numbers from the CPRA and on a response from an investor,” said Todd Brandt, CEO of Tourism Saskatoon.

It is unclear how many bids, if any, have been received or are expected by the CPRA, who will not comment on past negotiations or on the request for proposal process. The OEG did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday and Iveson’s media relations manager Cheryl Oxford said in an e-mail on Wednesday morning that there “is no planned media update on the CFR.”

The rodeo has been held in the building known as Rexall Place and before that Skyreach Centre and before that Northlands Coliseum, since 1974. It became a staple of the winter sports scene in the city, and created annual economic activity as rural Albertans flocked to Edmonton to watch broncs and bulls, to eat, drink and dance, to shop at the big mall and buy pickup trucks. How much was that worth? Depends who you ask. It was significant.

But with the Oilers moving downtown and the fate of the building uncertain, the CFR was on the move, regardless.

It appeared as if that move would be a short and easy one, that the OEG would reach a lengthy agreement with the CPRA to stage the event at Rogers Place, starting in 2017. During extended and exclusive negotiations between the two sides, the OEG put more money on the table than the cowboys had ever been offered. The OEG also proposed a partnership that would grow the sponsorship, television and marketing potential for an event that had plateaued in terms of appeal and revenue generation. The OEG didn’t want to rent out their venue, fill it with dirt, and leave it at that. They’re in the profit business and they wanted to take the event to the next level, as business people are wont to say.

On March 1, the CPRA rejected that offer and called an official halt to those exclusive negotiations. There apparently wasn’t enough money for the cowboys in the new deal, and the CPRA wanted more control over television production than the OEG was prepared to give up. There was also some issue regarding length of the deal. One side wanted a five-year pact, the other a 10-year deal, though which is which in that scenario is still unclear.

Shortly thereafter, the CPRA issued requests for proposal, and Edmonton was invited to bid. But that was no longer a simple affair, particularly for city council and the mayor.

After decades of watching from afar as Northlands and the CPRA hammered out contracts and extensions and increased purses and attendance, the city suddenly had to take the point on the file under the most trying of circumstances. The OEG had made it clear their best offer wasn’t getting better and the ball was in somebody else’s court.

There was absolutely no point in having the city repurpose the OEG bid as its own. With the Thursday deadline looming, councillors had a choice to make, and the numbers obviously did not support a larger commitment of taxpayer dollars.

What happens next? Sources suggest the OEG will land a Professional Bull Riders event starting in 2017, and may also stage a big-money rodeo that isn’t sanctioned by the CPRA. That would fit with OEG’s public commitment to find complementary programming for Farmfair International, an agricultural sale and trade show at Northlands.

The CPRA faces the prospect of a contentious annual general meeting on May 14 in Airdrie. Some CPRA directors are unhappy that the OEG bid was rejected. They surely won’t be thrilled if there isn’t a better one to take its place.  

Edmonton shuts the door to Canadian Finals Rodeo



Jake Vold (Airdrie, AB) takes part in the Bareback Riding event during the final day of the Canadian Finals Rodeo at Rexall Place, in Edmonton, Alta. on Sunday Nov. 15, 2015. David Bloom/Edmonton Sun/Postmedia Network

David Bloom/Edmonton Sun

Edmonton ran out the clock and will not submit a bid to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2017, Mayor Don Iveson announced Thursday.

But a western celebration to coincide with Farm Fair International could include profession bull riding, a battle of Alberta hockey game and week-long western concert series at the new Rogers’ Place area.

“Sometimes out of crisis comes opportunity,” said Iveson, giving a public update Thursday morning. The Oilers Entertainment Group already has a signed letter of intent with the Professional Bull Riders to host an Edmonton event.

“Farm Fair is the thing we really need to protect. … It drives huge traffic here,” said Iveson, estimating the economic impact of that Northlands event at $20 million.

Edmonton had been negotiating with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association for a new contract to keep the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton passed 2016. Iveson and the Oilers have said they submitted a bid that substantially increased the prize money and created opportunity for the event to grow with a TV audience. But the rodeo association turned them down and put the event out for other cities to bid. The deadline was Thursday.

“We worked hard to put that (earlier) generous bid together. We were surprised when it was not successful,” said Iveson. When the rodeo association put out its new request for proposals, it asked the city to guarantee minimum profits, said Iveson. That presented too great a risk to Edmonton taxpayers.

This announcement means the last Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton will be held Nov. 9 to 13.