EDMONTON — The Canadian Finals Rodeo may be moving to another city in 2017 after the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association declined the latest CFR proposal put forward by the Oilers Entertainment Group and the City of Edmonton.
The CPRA said in a media release Wednesday its board of directors unanimously voted down the proposal last week “after careful consideration.”
Negotiations for a new contract started in October 2015, when the CPRA said it gave the city and the OEG a 60-day grace period to submit a new proposal for the CFR. The grace period was extended “well beyond” the 60 days in an attempt to come to a mutual agreement, the CPRA said. The current contract expires at the end of 2016.
The CPRA said it offered the city and OEG the grace period “out of respect to the coming 43-year history” in Edmonton.
“From our perspective, this is about our members, fans and sponsors of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. After several months of back and forth proposals, we felt that the CPRA, OEG and the City of Edmonton all made concessions in an attempt to come to an agreement on the proposal,” CPRA GM Dan Eddy said.
“However, our focus is doing what is best for those members, fans and sponsors that expect us to pursue the best possible opportunities for the sport they love.”
Mayor Don Iveson said he’s disappointed in the decision because he thought Edmonton’s offer was “very generous.”
“The city increased its contribution and the OEG package was much more significant than even what it would be at Northlands this year and in the last year of the arrangement,” Iveson said.
“It’s a significant increase from a purse point of view.”
Iveson said the proposal included the possibility of televising the event, using OEG CEO Bob Nicholson’s connections.
“I think ‘Team Edmonton’ pulled together. We had all the players there, folks anted up from a couple of different points of view to try to increase the profile of the event. I thought the prospect of televising it and growing sponsorships through that would have been very attractive.”
The CPRA said it has “thrown the chute gate open” to pursue opportunities with every other city that has shown interest in hosting the event. Edmonton will be allowed to resubmit a proposal, which Iveson hopes will still be an option for the city.
Nicholson said, however, the CPRA won’t be getting a better offer from OEG.
“I can honestly say that we went above and beyond in our proposal,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
“This is a great bid and there won’t be a bid coming from OEG that will be any stronger than what we have on the table.”
Nicholson hasn’t talked to Iveson since the proposal was rejected and isn’t sure if the city is prepared to up its offer, but added the window of opportunity for negotiations with the CPRA is quickly closing.
“We are trying to fill the building. We have a lot of dollars at stake here,” he said. “I can tell you we’re already starting to look at 2017… If we start to hold dates we’re going to miss out on other opportunities and so that clock is ticking.
“The door is closing very quickly,” he said. “There is a crack, but it is a very small crack that’s open in this door.”
Because of the size of the event, the CFR would have to be held at Rogers Place. Without a venue and support from OEG, Iveson said it would be tough for Edmonton to submit a new proposal.
“I am concerned by some of the comments from the Oilers… that suggest they might not be willing to continue to participate in the process,” Iveson said. “It’s very important, in my point of view, that the Oilers stay engaged in this process and that as a community we try to rally to try to keep this event here.
“I think time will tell whether the Oilers choose to do what’s best for the Oilers or do what’s best for the city when it comes to attracting these major events and I think, really, that’s up to them.”
Northlands CEO Tim Reid is disappointed with the potential of losing the rodeo, but said Farmfair International—one of Canada’s top agricultural shows—will continue with or without the CFR.
“We deeply wanted to keep this because we already have 42 years invested in it,” Reid said. “We took this from a rodeo to the best rodeo in our country and when you look at losing the best rodeo in our country after you’ve invested as much time and energy and history as Northlands has, that’s disappointing.”
Reid said the CFR and Farmfair International together bring in about $50 million in economic development. However, he believes Farmfair International will stand very well on its own.
“What we’ve tried to encourage CPRA to consider is without Farmfair International, does CFR still have the success? And they should think about that because those two events are very, very supportive of each other.
“Farmfair does equal number of visits as CFR does. And frankly, last year, Farmfair grew while CFR showed a decline in participation,” Reid said. “And so, without that many visits coming to a major agriculture trade show, I think you have to consider what happens to the event experience that is the CFR.”
Reid said he hopes there’s a way to keep the CFR in Edmonton, but either way he’s committed to making this year’s event the best CFR to date.
The CFR is the largest indoor rodeo in Canada. The 2015 event drew in 89,177 participants at Rexall Place. More than $1.5 million in prize money was up for grabs by about 109 competitors.
Last year’s CFR and Farmfair International attracted 183,564 people to Northlands over the course of the five-day event.
The CPRA said it will continue to work with the City of Edmonton to ensure the 2016 CFR, which will be held from Nov. 9-13, is the best one yet.