It looks like the Canadian Finals Rodeo won’t be finding a new Edmonton home at Rogers Place.
The Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) — which runs the new downtown arena — confirmed Monday it won’t be putting in a bid to host the rodeo event.
“We don’t have much to say other than we’re declining to bid at this time,” an OEG spokesperson told Global News.
The CFR has been held in Edmonton, at Northlands, for the last 44 years. There was a bit of a hiccup a couple of years ago when the CFR took a long and winding road from severing ties with Edmonton and landing in Saskatoon, only to have CFR 44 return to Northlands Coliseum in November 2017.
The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Global Cup was held at Rogers Place from Nov. 9 to 11, 2017.
In September, Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) president Jeff Robson said there were conversations about the event’s future taking place in several locations, including in Edmonton with OEG.
“Really the ball’s in their court now,” he said of his discussions with Bob Nicholson and the OEG. “They talked about the fact in relative terms to the downtown arena ‘hey we’d love to continue this chat.’ That’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been keeping the dialogue open and ongoing.”
On Monday, Robson said the discussion process with the OEG was good, as was working with Nicholson. Robson said the CFR was in the final stages of deciding where to host the 2018 event and reached out to the OEG and Nicholson to let them know they were narrowing down a venue decision.
“He said he wasn’t really in a position to put something together until probably late January,” Robson said, adding the OEG would have to consult with the city on what a Rogers Place bid might look like.
“Hey, that’s fine,” Robson said. “We’re in a spot now where we can agree to disagree and we can move on.”
Robson said the association isn’t upset with the decision.
“We have a great product to offer and we have a strong following in Edmonton. I think it’s a shame that we couldn’t at least get a little further down the road with OEG… I think, at the end of the day, no bridges are burned and if we need a chance to revisit a venue in the future, I believe that OEG would provide us with one.”
And, down the road, he isn’t ruling out a return to Edmonton.
“Never say never,” Robson said. “I think you’d be crazy to say you never want to go back to Edmonton. Edmonton has been our home for 44 years. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to go back.”
Robson hopes to announce a decision about the 2018 CFR venue by the end of this week.
“We simply couldn’t find a model that would work for us to ensure a strong foundation — really, the viability of the product for the long term — so, at the end of the day, we chose not to submit a formal proposal to host CFR in 2018 and beyond,” OEG spokesperson Tim Shipton explained on Monday afternoon.
He added the OEG and CPRA have been discussing how to grow the product for about three years.
“Originally, we had proposed a deal that really would be a growth-orientated opportunity. We really felt that things like TV, national sponsorship, really trying to grow the product into a made-for-TV event, grow the product, great experience across the city, some of those things, as we dug deeper, we just simply felt weren’t in the cards,” Shipton said.
“I think moving forward, we’ve got to find the right model, as well, that works. We don’t want to get into the business of having events that need to be heavily subsidized.”
The CFR is a family tradition for Ponoka’s Chance Butterfield.
“I’ve been watching that rodeo as long as I can remember.
“I’m pretty sure the year I was born, my parents were attending the CFR and competing there. I’d be the second generation to be competing in what was Rexall and what’s Northlands Coliseum now.
“We’ve got a long history there… It’s our culture and it runs pretty deep.”
Both his parents, as well as his grandfather, competed in rodeo and his mother and grandfather were Canadian champions in their events. Butterfield competed in his first CFR in 2017.
READ MORE: Canadian Finals Rodeo heading to Saskatoon
He’s been keeping an eye out on discussions about the event’s future.
“It’s been everywhere. We were supposed to be in Saskatoon, [then] we were back in Edmonton. We’re supposed to be there for two years, at Northlands, then it got cut back to a year.
“Things looked pretty good, from the outside looking in, maybe going to the new arena. But dollars and cents, at the end of the day, they didn’t they could make it work and I guess I can understand that.
“I’m pretty sure OEG is going to do just fine with their new building without the rodeo there,” Butterfield said. “They should be able to make as much, if not more money, with concerts and hockey games.”
“The derivatives for the city I think are going to be substantially less,” Butterfield said. “I just can’t see the amount of people and the amount of outside money coming into the city, I can’t see it being as high as what the CFR was bringing in. But, like I said, I’m a little bit biased.”
— With files from 630 CHED’s Scott Johnston
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