After several days of speculation, officials from Northlands and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) confirmed Wednesday that Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) will stay in Edmonton for at least two more years.
“We’re staying here through 2018,” Jeff Robson with CPRA said.
The announcement was made as Northlands and the CPRA launched the 43rd annual CFR.
“Northlands has been a proud partner of CFR for 43 years,” Northlands CEO Tim Reid said, describing rodeo as like “a second dynasty taking place in Northlands.”
He said there would be an option to extend the stay past 2018.
“Any time you have a good partnership there’s potential of extension, whether that extension happens here, or Rogers Place or in Saskatchewan. This is a two-year partnership that we know is here with Northlands,” Reid said.
“What happens beyond that … I think there’s a lot of uncertainty between now and then and I think we have to respect that it’s a process.”
Reid also said that future agreement would be “flexible” and would prioritize the best interests of the city as a whole.
“If there’s a path that Northlands needs to step away from, we will. But right now, we’re sure proud of having a two-year extension on this partnership.”
Watch below: ‘I think everybody was surprised’: Tim Reid says Canadian Finals Rodeo will stay in Edmonton through 2018
Reid said he hopes the CFR stays in Edmonton long-term, but said it would have to find a “long-term home.”
Both Northlands and the rodeo association said a move – likely to Rogers Place – would be needed for the event to stay in Edmonton past 2018. The Oilers Entertainment Group said it hasn’t spoken to anyone about the possibility.
Robson explained the CPRA board asked him to lead negotiations and figure out where the event would go next. He said the board was split on which direction to take, adding it took courage to make the decision.
Robson did not say anything about why the deal with Saskatoon fell through.
“The road we took to get here? A little windy,” city councillor and Northlands board member Tony Caterina said. “It could’ve gone a bit straighter instead of all these curves.”
He called the news of the extension both bizarre and welcome.
“Given the fact we were all in a few months ago – the City of Edmonton, OEG and Northlands – I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult to look at something like that again,” he said. “All parties have to get together.
“I think this is really a good news story for the city of Edmonton.”
The mayor said Tuesday he was encouraged that discussions about keeping the event here were re-ignited.
“It’s intriguing that talks have continued,” Don Iveson said.
“They have not included the city because we’re not in a position to actively promote any event – because of the Master Agreement with OEG – we’re not in a position to actively promote any event going into the Coliseum.”
However, he was hoping Northlands Coliseum would be re-purposed quickly and had concerns about what more years hosting CFR would mean for the future of the old Rexall Place.
“If we do this right, I don’t think this is about competition at all,” Reid said Wednesday. “I think this is about collaboration to create a new festival property in the city of Edmonton that’s something that’s one of the best that could exist in North America as a celebration of our western heritage and our spirit… our intention wouldn’t be to compete with OEG but it’s 10 days of rodeo and I think there’s some opportunity in the program.”
Reid said a successful CFR essentially covers the carrying costs of the Coliseum for one year.
“This event is critical to Northlands’ sustainability.”
The CFR rejected the final joint bid from the City of Edmonton and the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) more than six months ago to keep the event in Alberta’s capital. Three months ago, CFR made a deal with the City of Saskatoon to relocate there after this year’s event, but the situation has changed.
The CFR was supposed to mark its farewell season in Edmonton in 2016, but the rodeo event will remain in Alberta’s capital for at least two more years after that.
After Edmonton lost the CFR, the OEG announced in August it was bringing in a 10-day western culture event with Professional Bull Riders (PBR) in the fall of 2017.
The 43rd annual CFR will include The Roadhouse concert series including acts like Brett Kissel and High Valley. Farm Fair International will be back in November, along with some new agricultural features.
Edmonton has hosted the Canadian Finals Rodeo since 1974, which draws thousands of visitors yearly.
The 2016 edition of Canadian Finals Rodeo, which offers one of the richest purses in Canada, will take place in Edmonton Nov. 9-13.