Oilers Entertainment Group could try to lure CFR from Northlands

WATCH ABOVE: Will CFR stay at Northlands? Tom Vernon reports.

EDMONTON – For 41 years, the Canadian Finals Rodeo has called Northlands home, but that might change after 2016.

The Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) says it would like to host rodeo events in Rogers Place, including the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The new arena  – situated in the heart of Edmonton – is slated to open in 2016.

“It is fitted out and designed to hold rodeos, if we want it to,” said OEG President Patrick LaForge. “We had professional rodeo people involved in the design of the building, just in case.”

The group has had preliminary talks with the professional rodeo association, but no formal proposals have been made.

“Rogers Place is a fantastic facility,” added LaForge. “It’s going to be brand new, it’s fitted out with the capabilities of hosting everything at world-class levels.

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“It’s our job to go shop the world and bring to Edmonton the best entertainment in the world.”

The contract between Northlands and the rodeo association will end in 2016.

Northlands president and CEO isn’t surprised to hear the OEG would be interested in hosting the rodeo.

“Any time you look at a new property, you’re going to try to find any business opportunities you can,” said Tim Reid. “It’s probably right that the Katz Group is exploring those opportunities and the Oilers are looking at how to grow their business.

“You have to understand if it’s the right business.”

READ MORE: Northlands determining future of Rexall Place 

Reid said Northlands has a long history of working with the CFR and Farm Fair International.

“It’s been a great partnership,” he said. “It’s not just the partnership with CFR but it’s the relationship that we have with Farm Fair International. Two products that really align incredibly well for the betterment of the City of Edmonton and the experience that is rodeo and the experience that is Farm Fair International.”

He described the Northlands facility as “about as good as you’re going to find” for hosting an event like CFR and Farm Fair.

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“We’ve got over 1,400 animals on site right now. If you look at the grounds, Expo Centre is full with Farm Fair and agriculture experience, and Rexall Place is full with the rodeo. They work well together.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson hopes all the parties involved can also work well together.

“Ideally, the Katz Group and Northlands can find a way to work together because Northlands has a great long-standing relationship with the CFR and hosts FarmFair, which is a very important part of the events.”

Iveson says it is essential the CFR remain in Edmonton beyond 2016 because of the millions of dollars in revenue it generates every year.

“I will intervene if it becomes un-constructive or destructive between the Oilers and Northlands. If it runs the risk of losing us the event, then I’ll intervene.”

READ MORE: Northlands plans to compete with downtown arena 

Councillor Mike Nickel is concerned about what having both Rexall Place and Rogers Place operating in Edmonton might mean for business.

“Here we go. Is this a case of one rink going after another rink’s business?”

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“I’m not sure there are too many jurisdictions out there that can survive with two of these sorts of venues, not just competing for rodeos, but competing for big music events and so on,” said Nickel. “This isn’t just about hockey.”

Reid doesn’t believe the competition with Rogers Place has to be so acrimonious.

“We expected it, can’t control it, what we’re going to do is deliver a great event.”

“There’s a win, win, win here. We just have to find it.”

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