Northlands brings Canadian Finals Rodeo back to Edmonton
The event was expected to go to Saskatoon after negotiations with the city broke down in May.
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UPDATED: Edmonton has gone from having no rodeos at one point this year to two rodeos — after Northlands pulled a surprise move by roping back in the Canadian Finals Rodeo this week.
The city announced in May it had withdrawn its bid for the CFR after hosting it for 43 years, and three months after, the Oilers Entertainment Group announced a 10-day “western lifestyle” party to take its place in conjunction with Professional Bull Riding.
But on Monday, news emerged that Northlands – which has traditionally hosted the CFR – had struck a deal to bring the event back to Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum for 2017 and 2018.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association pulled out of a memorandum of agreement with the city of Saskatoon in order to keep the event in Alberta, which is not sitting well with Saskatoon officials.
“I’ve been at this for 19 years and we’ve put out a lot of bids from this office. This is the first time we’ve ever gone to an MOA and then not fulfilled,” Saskatoon Tourism President and CEO Todd Brandt said Tuesday. “It was unusual to say the least.”
Edmonton officials had said in May that the CPRA was demanding a deal that would put taxpayers at on the hook for an unacceptable amount of risk.
The CPRA reached created the memorandum agreement with Saskatoon in July, but some of its leaders resigned soon after.
“We were asked to just hold on as they restructured the board, looked for a new CEO,” Brandt said.
He claimed the association did not mention until three weeks ago that it had restarted negotiations with Northlands.
The CPRA declined comment Tuesday but is expected to offer more details at a press conference Wednesday morning.
CFR was already scheduled to take place at Northlands from Nov. 9-13 this year.
Edmonton city councillor Andrew Knack said the return of the Canadian Finals Rodeo is a “good news story” that will help Northlands bring in revenue while the non-profit maps out its future.
Northlands has been mulling its prospects since losing the Oilers, its biggest moneymaker, to Rogers Place.
“It’s better to leave it activated while we’re working our way through this plan than to leave it stagnant,” Knack said.
Northlands President and CEO Tim Reid has threatened to nix signature events like K Days and Farmfair International due to lost revenue, and the organization was dealt another blow when city administration rejected its Vision 2020 redevelopment proposal in August.
Knack said the CFR has always been a positive event for the city and suggested it could run in succession with the Oilers Entertainment Group’s Professional Bull Riding event next year.
“I don’t think they need to be viewed as competing, unless they’re happening at the exact same time,” he said. “In fact, if done right, this could be complementary.”
The Oilers Entertainment Group and Northlands both declined comment Tuesday.