Future of Canadian Finals Rodeo still unclear before final event at Northlands

The Canadian Finals Rodeo will hold its annual event in Edmonton for the final time this week, due to the uncertain future of Northlands Coliseum. Twitter/CFR Edmonton

The Canadian Finals Rodeo is coming to Northlands Coliseum this week for the last time.

The CFR, which features seven events and the Farmfair International agricultural show, will be holding its 44th annual rodeo from Nov. 8 to 12.

But with the future of the Coliseum up in the air, it’s unclear where the CFR will be held next year.

Jeff Robson, an adviser with the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association, told the Alberta Morning News on Sunday that the CFR has had several offers to host the rodeo going forward.

“We’re trying to be fair about it, trying to do our best to provide them with as much information as we can on our product and the profitability of the show,” Robson said.

“I think Tim [Reid, president and CEO of Northlands] has been gracious about those key pieces, and we’re all trying to do what we think is right for the long-term of the sport.”
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READ MORE: Oilers Entertainment Group distances itself from CFR at Rogers Place decision

However, the CFR board isn’t in any rush to find its next host, instead focusing on finding the best deal — no matter how long it takes.

“Our immediate goal is to try and keep working on our baseline of our prize money so that it continually improves,” Robson said.

“We’re no different than any other sport,” he added. “We’re trying to do better by our members all the time, and make conditions better and competition more fierce.”

READ MORE: CFR boss says chance of rodeo at Rogers Place in 2018 is ‘reasonable’

With the Coliseum set to close at the end of the year, the CFR was potentially looking to move Rogers Place for 2018, but Farmfair International would likely stay put at Northlands for at least the next few years.

“We’ll have to work very hard to make sure that Farm Fair continues to thrive,” Mayor Don Iveson said on Wednesday.

“It’s a really important event for our city and for our food producers. With or without rodeo, I still think western hospitality is going to be a big part of every November in Edmonton around Farm Fair,” he said.

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Robson said despite the two events not being run by the same group, it does matter to CFR that Farmfair is staying in Edmonton.

“As much as a staple the CFR has been, you don’t say CFR without saying Farmfair International, so they kind of go together like peanut butter and jelly,” he noted. “So to say we don’t care [would not] be accurate, and it still goes with our western lifestyle event.”

Iveson was asked if Farm Fair would work alongside Professional Bull Riding (PBR) at Rogers Place.

“It could. Oilers Entertainment Group wanted to bring in Professional Bull Riding as a complement to Farm Fair, so that remains a possibility. That’s a commercial decision for them, that’s not a economic development strategic decision for the city. But, to the extent that it’s in everyone’s interest to have a great western hospitality experience here around Farm Fair, then having partners like Oilers Entertainment Group working towards that hospitality goal is great. But it’s got to work for them too,” the mayor said.

“We’re not likely to get into subsidizing something like that, just to be crystal clear.”

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And what does he think happens to the CFR next year and beyond that?

“It’s got to work for those two independent organizations [OEG, CFR/PCA] and it’s got to be commercially viable for them,” Iveson said. “I think what we can continue to provide is activation and support around western hospitality and tourism attraction to get people buying tickets and work with the hoteliers to make sure everyone has a great experience here, but people were suggesting we ought to get into subsidizing rodeo and I really don’t think that’s appropriate.”

— With files from Scott Johnston