Red Deer was named as the new host of the Canadian Finals Rodeo at an announcement made at the ENMAX Centrium hockey arena on Tuesday evening.
The massive rodeo event has been held at Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum for its entire 44-year run. But when the city decided to shut down the facility, the CFR had to look for a new home in 2018 and beyond.
The operators of Edmonton’s new arena, Rogers Place, decided not to bid on hosting the rodeo.
At Tuesday’s announcement, officials said the CFR would be in Red Deer for at least 10 years and will take place from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4 in its first season in Red Deer in 2018. The event will also feature a concert series at Westerner Park.
“I think it provides for an exciting opportunity to do something different,” said Jeff Robson with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, who added there will still be a rodeo at Edmonton’s K-Days.
“To us, this means a new home, a fresh start and an exciting new venue, new community. It’s just kind of new. We’ve never moved the event so I don’t know — it’s exciting.”
Red Deer’s mayor said bringing in the CFR is “an incredible opportunity” for her city.
“We’ve been positioning ourselves as a sports tourism hub,” Tara Veer said. “Having the ability to host for 10 years gives us an opportunity to not only showcase our city, but also the opportunity to build and grow and make it even better in every subsequent year.”
“I’m not a betting man, but I think we’re going to sell out real quick,” Robson said.
Red Deer and Saskatoon were both vying for the event. Back in November after making the bid, the CEO of Westerner Park said he was asking for a multi-year deal.
Ben Antifaiff, the CEO of Westerner Park, said “this isn’t our first rodeo,” and that the city is ready to host an event of CFR’s magnitude.
“It’s been a lot of work to get to today to make an official announcement, and it feels really darn good.”
In a statement, Northlands president and CEO Tim Reid said he’s happy to see the event stay in Alberta.
“The CFR has been an incredible event for the city of Edmonton for over four decades and although we are sad to see it go, we are very excited to that the future economic impact of the event will remain in the province of Alberta for years to come,” Reid said.
Tuesday’s announcement was made at the ENMAX Centrium, the home of the Red Deer Rebels hockey team. The arena has about 6,600 seats but can be expanded to allow for a crowd of 8,000.
“We have a vision for how to pack darn near 10,000 people onto the property for CFR and we have the opportunity, should it present itself, to potentially renovate the building,” Antifaiff said.
Robin Bobocel, the CEO of the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce, said the economic impact of the event being held in Red Deer will be significant.
“It’s a game changer, there’s no question about it,” he said, forecasting $20 million worth of economic impact.
“With 2.9 million people within a 90-minute drive of Red Deer, we pretty much have it all in the community,” he added. “The hotels are excited about this opportunity. Not just in Red Deer, but also in outlying communities such as Innisfail, Sylvan Lake and Lacombe.”
The CFR started in 1974 and draws thousands of visitors yearly. It also offers one of the richest purses in Canada.
-With files from Sarah Kraus