Oilers Entertainment Group in negotiations to bring rodeo to downtown Edmonton arena

 

BY TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

It’s close. Real close.

There’s a deal ready to be done to allow the Canadian Finals Rodeo to have one final yah-hoo, one last yee haw in Rexall Place this November with a deal to move into the new Rogers Place Downtown Arena in the back pocket of their jeans the following year.

The concept would be to move forward in a long-term partnership with the Oilers Entertainment Group that would include a TV component and sponsorship strategy.

“That’s what we have on the table. We have an offer on the table with Dan Eddy and the CFR that’s about a partnership. It’s about building TV, it’s about building sponsorships,” said OEG CEO Vice Chair Bob Nicholson.

“We’re doing this as much because it’s great for the city as any other reason. This is not something financially that’s great for OEG,” said Nicholson of the property as it currently exists.

Having a deal on the table and a deal in your back pocket are two different things.

“We’re getting real close. But we’re not going to be adding more money to it. They have to get it figured out.

“We’re giving them an unbelievable facility. We want to grow rodeo with them. But they have to come to the table and grow it with us. We’re just not going to pay them. It has to be growth together.

“You look at what we’re going to have in Rogers Place and what we’re going to have in the Ice District. Combine that with a concept for TV. How you build that is like Hockey Canada did with the World Juniors. We have a formula to work with them. It doesn’t happen on your first contract and certainly not on a guarantee.”

Nicholson’s history and his success in 16 years as head of Hockey Canada is that he builds partnerships.

“That’s what I’m looking at,” he responded when your correspondent tossed that out there. “I’m looking to build a partnership.

“First and foremost, I want to see what Rexall is going to be,” said the OEG boss.

The word is that the World Curling championship will be the final event of any significance in Rexall Place as we now know it. But he has yet to hear that officially from Mayor Don Iveson or Northlands.

“That’s what I want to see first. I want to see how it evolves. The key here is, if Rexall Place changes, there is only one place they can come,” said Nicholson.

“Right now, the discussions we’ve had with Northlands is that they’d stay open until after the curling and then, we’re told, they’re going to change what Northlands is.

“We haven’t seen anything final. I think we’ll see some options in terms of what Northlands is going to do here very quickly. As that happens I think that’s going to tell us where our partnership with the city will be. I think we have a real good partnership with the city. If we have our partnership where we think it is with the city, then Northlands is going to be defined.

“Will Northlands stay in agriculture? Or are they going to try to compete in other ways with us? We’ll find out.

“Before I got here the relationship between Northlands and the Oilers wasn’t very positive. We’ve had discussions. Now the rubber is going to hit the road.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca