Canadian Finals Rodeo sees biggest numbers for the final event at Northlands Coliseum

The 44nd edition of the Canadian Finals Rodeo is being hailed a huge success by Northlands. Global News

A 44-year-long tradition has come to an end with the last Canadian Finals Rodeo taking place at Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum.

The final event went out with a bang thanks to a record number of people passing through the gates at both the CFR and Farmfair International.

Attendance figures for 2017 show 90,268 took in the CFR with the Saturday afternoon and evening events hosting the largest crowds. That’s up from just over 87,000 in 2016.

Over 101,000 people attended Farmfair International compared to just over 90,000 last year.

The president and CEO of Northlands chalked up some of the attendance boost to nostalgia, from those who wanted to take in the final rodeo in the old “barn.”

“It’s an incredible success for CFR 44,” Tim Reid said. “Overall, our sense was this was a really good year for rodeo, a great year for Farmfair and I think we’re incredibly pleased with the partnership with the CPRA for 44 years.

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“I think it sends a strong message that rodeo at its purest form is important to Albertans and most importantly, there’s an opportunity for us as Edmontonians to find a path forward for the CFR.”

READ MORE: Inaugural PBR Global Cup to kick off in Edmonton

Reid said he was encouraged by the increased attendance, despite the fact that CFR was being held at the same time that Rogers Place hosted the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Challenge Tour.

PBR Canada general manager Chris Bell was pleased with the inaugural event overall, but the Oilers Entertainment Group would not release attendance numbers.

Bell said it takes time to build an event.

“No secret with both events going on at the same time, there was certainly probably some splitting going on. But all in all we’re extremely happy with how it went,” Bell said.

“It grew from Thursday to Friday and then Friday to Saturday. The crowd Saturday was very strong and more importantly, they embraced the event. They really got behind the format and the competition,” he continued. “That, to me, is what speaks volumes of how the market would embrace an event like this moving forward.”

READ MORE: Bull riders say soil is at heart of good PBR event

There are no guarantees the PBR event will return to Rogers Place next year. Bell said PBR Canada will work with its partners — including the City of Edmonton and OEG — to hammer out the details in the coming months.

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“We definitely want to come back, it just has to come back making sure it fits for everyone involved,” Bell said. “All indicators are we’re certainly tracking towards that and we will continue to evaluate the event with our partners… That’s certainly everyone’s expectations.”

PBR Canada isn’t ruling out some sort of partnership with the CFR to combine the two events.

“From looking at what that looks like, we don’t have the exact picture painted,” he said Monday. “That opportunity could happen.”

In September, city council voted unanimously to close Northlands Coliseum, putting the future of events like the CFR up in the air.

“There’s a lot of people that love Western culture that live in the city of Edmonton,” Reid said. “I think between ourselves, the City of Edmonton, the CPRA, as well as OEG downtown, we have an obligation to at least try to find a better path for it. That being said, I know the CPRA is entertaining options from other cities. It’s a big event, it drives real money to the city and there’s a lot of people interested in that.”

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum closing its doors in January

The CFR brings in upwards of $50 million to the city each year and finding a future for the event in Edmonton is a priority.

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“I think everybody has intentionally taken the position of, ‘Let’s see where this goes.’ Let’s understand what happens to PBR. Let’s see what happens to Farmfair and let’s see what happens to the CFR. I think coming out of this, we all have an obligation to our business community to make sure we build a path and future.

“There’s a lot of other cities that will work incredibly hard to have that come to their city, we’ve got it, we should never lose it.”

Reid said the PBR was a great test for Rogers Place.

“I think this was a really critical juncture. I think it allowed Rogers Place and OEG to understand what happens downtown. How they receive a Western culture event, how they managed dirt in their building, it allows us to get a sense if there is a future,” Reid said.

“Is there potential beyond the life of the Coliseum, which has always been such a great building? I think it also allows a new council to experience the power of Canadian Finals Rodeo and Farmfair International. Hopefully we can get something done for the future.”

Watch below: Ongoing Global News coverage of the CFR and PBR in Edmonton


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