“This is a great day for rodeo in Canada,” said Terry Cooke, president of the CPRA.
In a press conference at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta, it was announced that Canada’s pinnacle rodeo event had officially found its new home. The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association signed a 10-year deal with Westerner Park and the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
“We came to an agreement today — went through the contract — it’s going to be great for the cowboys, for the fans, the city and rodeo in Canada,” Cooke said. “This has been going on a long time and it feels so good to be wanted by a community. These guys want us to be here and we want to be here.”
The event has called Edmonton home for the last 44 years and the pressure was on when the Northlands Coliseum announced it would be closing a year ahead of schedule, leaving CFR without the home it thought it would have for 2018. The Sasktel Centre and Saskatoon Tourism in Saskatchewan showed interest in hosting the event but ultimately the Red Deer proposal was chosen.
“We were of the strong belief that our offer was the best offer, a lot of that is to do with our venue,” said Ben Antifaiff, CEO and general manager at Westerner Park. “We can house the livestock right on site, all the livestock can be stabled, (and) no livestock is going to have to be trucked on and off site. It’s way better for the animals and a lot easier on the animals and that’s an important part of the competition.”
As for housing CFR fans, the smaller venue already has a plan for that.
“Certainly we have a smaller seating capacity, but we also have the ability for the first year to put up temporary bleachers and we intend to do that,” Antifaiff said. “We also have the Parkland Pavilion right next door and adjacent to this building. We’re going to set up our cabaret series and simulcast in that building. We can put another 2,000 people in, so taking in to consideration what our current capacity is, add temporary bleachers and also a simulcast next door, and we can put just about 10,000 people on our property to enjoy the CFR and that pretty well rivals what the average was at Northlands in Edmonton.”
With a new team at the helm comes some changes to CFR. While there are still many details to be decided, some key differences will be:
- Date: The 2018 CFR will take place October 30 to November 4, earlier than the traditional time frame that falls over Remembrance Day.
- Length: The CFR will still have six performances, but only have one performance each night from Tuesday through Saturday, and the matinee performance on Sunday. Contestants will no longer have back-to-back performances on Saturday.
- Junior addition: What was traditionally the Saturday matinee performance will now be replaced with a junior rodeo event to showcase the future stars of rodeo as they compete for a share of a $24,000 scholarship fund.
- Purse: In 2017 the CFR purse totaled $1.61 million (not including the novice events); in 2018 the top competitors in Canada will compete for $1.65 million.
While there will be changes, the organizers from Red Deer pledged that many aspects will remain the same:
- Six-pack tickets: organizers are coming up with a conversion plan for the previous CFR six-pack ticket holders to purchase what they will call “all-in” ticket packages for the Red Deer venue that will include the seven (six professional and one junior) performances during CFR.
- Benevolent Fund: The organizers will be carrying on the Rodeo Cowboys Benevolent Fund to help support competitors that are injured and unable to compete and earn money.
- Events: Surrounding events like the Ladies Of Canadian Pro Rodeo Fashion Show, the Miss Rodeo Canada Pageant, and the CFR Night of Champions are welcomed by the new committee.
- Sponsors: Organizers plan to reach out to existing CFR sponsors.
The organizers from Red Deer were also motivated to create a strong proposal by what hosting an event of this magnitude could do for the central Alberta city, surrounding area, and its businesses.
“The models that we’ve put together show an economic impact of between 20 and 30 million dollars annually for Red Deer and the region. So translate that over 10 years and that’s an extremely significant number,” said Robin Bobocel, CEO of Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.
The group also pointed out that there are 2.9 million people within an hour and a half of Red Deer that could greatly influence not only the event, but the sport as well.
“Isn’t it a great opportunity for us to grow the sport of rodeo and expose new people to the sport, to have us in such close proximity to them I think is a huge opportunity and we will not waste it,” said Bobocel.