Projected new deal, move to new arena, could see CFR purses grow

Morgan Grant says after breaking even over the course of the season the takeaway from a major event like CFR can justify the choice to compete in rodeos. (David Bloom, Edmonton sports)





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If a new contract is signed to keep the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton and go forward to a future in the new downtown arena, what will it mean to the cowboy?

It says here that, effectively, pro rodeo in Canada would really become pro rodeo.

If the partnership between the Oilers Entertainment Group, Northlands and the City of Edmonton revealed in this space Tuesday results in the cowboys agreeing to a new long-term contract to keep the CFR in Edmonton and moving the event downtown to Rogers Place, the guess is prize money would to go well over $2 million.

Take a guy who scrapes into the CFR in 12th place, going from small rodeo to small rodeo all over the Canadian West to collect enough prize money to qualify in the last spot to get in.

Introducing Kyle Thompson of Lundbreck, who entered 32 rodeos to make $13,121.71 and qualify 12th in saddle bronc. Meet Kevin Langevin of Bonnyville, who hit 30 rodeos to make $12,486.76 and finish 12th in bareback. And say hello to Tanner Gerletz of Cereal, who competed in 27 rodeos to collect $16,588.78 in bull riding. But the main man to follow in the 42nd edition of the CFR that opens tonight at Rexall Place is Morgan Grant of Didsbury.

Grant finished 12th in both timed events.

“Actually it ended up 11th in the roping and 12th in the bulldogging. Only five Americans are allowed to qualify so I moved up one,” said Grant.

It took him 42 rodeos to make $15,471.79 in calf roping and 43 rodeos to make $16,113.65 in steer wrestling.

Last year there was $1,545,750 up for grabs at the CFR. That broke down to $11,809.44 for first, $8,781.37 for second, $5,753.31 for third and $2,725.25 for fourth to $1,211.22 to fifth at each performance.

If you get in by the skin on your teeth to the CFR, you can make almost as much in one night as all season. With the new deal you might come close to doubling it.

Grant, who met Miss Rodeo Canada fiancée Gillian Shields, of Didsbury, at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo in 2013, is a native of Granton, Ont., who won the $100,000 Showdown Sunday in calf roping at the 2014 Calgary Stampede. He also collected $25,000 in steer wrestling that day. That made him the biggest money winner in the Stampede that year.

“That was amazing. That’s what I dreamed of. I can remember being 13 years old and practising. I pretended I was roping for it when it was $50,000 at that time in Calgary. To win it was surreal. Just unbelievable.”

There were a couple of good stories from a financial point of view at last year’s CFR.

Bull rider Dakota Buttar of Kindersley was the top earner last year at $35,874 and had a big CFR, to boost it to $82,808.67. And bull rider Tyler Thompson of Black Diamond won $32,449 to qualify for Edmonton and left town with $61,519.14 to show for his season.

The thing about being a Canadian rodeo pro is that it generally costs more than you make to get to Edmonton. Consider gas, food and lodging alone to go to 43 rodeos, not to mention entry fees of $100 per event and up.

Grant as a competitor in the two events also hauls around and feeds three or four horses depending on whether his mom, Cathy, a barrel racer, is with him.

“It probably cost me more than I made this year. In rodeo you kind of break even all year long and the Canadian Finals Rodeo is where you pay all your bills. This year, to qualify for the CFR I went all the way to Morris, Man., Abbotsford, Williams Lake and Dawson Creek. You just try to break even to make it to Edmonton and then win $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 when you get here. And for me, to get two opportunities each night is awesome,” said the competitor in his fourth CFR.

“I’ve always had really good success here. Last year I qualified in two events. When you get here you just want to make smart runs and pull cheques every night. I took $42,000 out of here two years ago.”

All expenses here are covered. So there’s that, too.

Put the prize money significantly over $2 million in the new arena and that $42,000 can turn into $75,000.

“I really love this rodeo. To me it’s second only to the NFR in Las Vegas. That’s my next goal. Calgary gives $100,000 away but that’s one-shot money. Here you can come and make $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 every year in your event.”

What would it mean for a guy like Morgan Grant to be going to a CFR in the new downtown arena with the prize money well over $2 million?

“I have a degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M and they are really good at finding jobs. When they came to me I said, ‘Actually, I’m going to go rodeo.’ To win Calgary like I did and have the CFR in Edmonton add more money, that would just kind of justify my life choices.”

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Oilers Entertainment Group, City of Edmonton and Northlands planning joint power proposal to keep rodeo



Tim Shipton, left, vice-president of communications with the Edmonton Oilers, and Tim Reid, northlands president and CEO, tip their hats as they take part in a special Canadian Finals Rodeo kickoff event downtown on Monday. (Perry Mah, Edmonton Sun)



The latest attempt by Calgary to rustle the Canadian Finals Rodeo away from Edmonton is about to be bucked off, wrestled into the dirt and tied up with two wraps and a hooey.

The Oilers Entertainment Group, your correspondent has learned, has put together a powerful partnership with the City of Edmonton AND Edmonton Northlands with the intention of making it an absolute no brainer to keep the event here.

“It’s a lot of horsepower,” said Bob Black, executive VP of the Edmonton Arena Corporation and chief project development officer for OEG.

“We are putting together a proposal to the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. It’s a joint effort. It’s really strong functional partnership between OEG, Northlands and the City that will bring the rodeo downtown to Rogers Place where it should be.

“And what better way to do it? That’s a powerhouse combination with the depth we have in our company to grow this thing,” he said of the event which opens the 42nd edition Wednesday at Rexall Place.

The intent is to negotiate a deal with the CPRA to keep the rodeo here for the next decade and perhaps beyond.

“It’s a real good story from my perspective that we’ve been able to find a way with Northlands. Tim Reid has been a real leader in that regard,” said Black of the new Northlands president and CEO.

“We’ve been able to develop a very candid and productive dialog with Northlands and from our perspective that’s a big win. If our organization, Northlands and the city are all working together, it’s obviously a much more powerful scenario than a situation where we’re going it alone.

“Northlands has a long history of running and operating the event combined with OEG being a modern sports and entertainment force. Northlands is 100% on board. They know the long-term future of rodeo in Edmonton is downtown. They will be a really deep partner in this.”

Having Northlands remain involved as a partner keeps Rodeo Week alive with the Farm Fair component. And all involved agree that it also makes sense to house all the rodeo stock on the Northlands grounds and truck them downtown for each performance.

“And the City of Edmonton force is very compelling,” said Black of it being both financial and involving other aspects including Edmonton Tourism and other agencies.

“It’s the city at large that is the biggest beneficiary with the economic impact.”

Due to the fact that negotiations are negotiations, Black isn’t going to get into numbers. But think big. Real big.

With just under $1.6 million in prize money this week my guess is it would jump to well over $2 million overnight.

“The bottom line is that everything we’re going to be doing at OEG is going to be big. We wouldn’t bid on something just to keep it status quo.

“The prize money will be a piece of it, for sure, but I think the overall experience for the athletes is going to be better and I think the overall experience for the fans is going to be better.

“We designed the building with rodeo in mind from the very beginning. We worked with rodeo consultants to make sure the design would create a great rodeo event.

“The arena has been designed to provide greater amenities for the rodeo athlete than they currently enjoy at Rexall Place and the fan experience at Rogers Place will be second to none.

“We have the kind of space and the set-up to create a cowboy kitchen. That’s one of the concepts we have in the new arena. Rodeo patrons will most certainly benefit from the very advanced technological design of the arena and the wide variety of premium seating and food and beverage options.

“Being downtown allows us to bring the party to the core of the city and allows us great flexibility to take advantage of the many venues which will also contribute to the overall fan experience.

“Rogers Place is an ideal place to grow the rodeo, there’s no doubt about it. I think everybody sees that and I think that’s why it’s become such a strong partnership with the City and Northlands. There’s been no quibbling about that point.”

One year still remains on the contract with Northlands but there’s some doubt if the building will remain open for business through to November of next year. The Oilers begin play in the new Rogers Arena next September.

Whether the move is next year or not, Calgary, they all believe, won’t be able to compete with Edmonton’s new building or the marketing power that will be involved.

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