Pro rodeo contract up for grabs

EDMONTON — Farmfair and the Canadian Finals Rodeo have gone together like bread and butter for 42 years.

That will change in two years, when the contract ends to hold the rodeo at Rexall Place, which is next door to Northlands, where Farmfair is held.

Northlands president Tim Reid said the exhibition grounds is in negotiations to keep the rodeo in Edmonton at a new downtown arena that is still under construction.

Northlands, in partnership with the Edmonton Oilers Group, hopes the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association will agree to move the rodeo to the downtown arena rather than out of the city or province.

It’s estimated that Farmfair and the rodeo bring more than $50 million into the Edmonton economy during rodeo week.

“We are in discussions now,” Reid said.

“We in Northlands, our primary driver is to make sure the CFR stays in the city of Edmonton. Regardless of the outcome of CFR, we will continue to program a farm ranch exhibition in the fall, and we at Northlands are deeply committed to agriculture as we move forward with the new vision.”

The proposal would see Northlands continue to run the rodeo, but the Oilers Entertainment Group would be in charge of ticket sales and marketing at the new Rogers Place arena.

“That is the offer on the table,” said Reid.

Moving the rodeo 10 kilometres away from Farmfair shouldn’t affect attendance at either event, said Reid.

“I don’t actually see any impact on Farmfair,” he said.

“Of the two brands, Farmfair has probably the most solid market because of the strength of the agriculture industry.”

Reid envisions Farmfair running in a similar fashion, but the shows may end sooner to allow visitors to travel downtown to the new arena.

Northlands receives $7.3 million of provincial government subsidies to operate Farmfair, and the 137-year-old agricultural society is committed to keeping the livestock show going.

“We’re subsidized to deliver agriculture programming throughout the year, and Farmfair is largest event. What I can tell you is we have every intent of continuing to program Farmfair,” said Reid.

“We have one more year of CFR being on campus and beyond that it is somewhat out of our control. We really hate to lose the event in the city of Edmonton, and frankly we think it would be detrimental to Farmfair and to the city of Edmonton.”

Garth Rancier said it would be sad to lose the rodeo because of the increased traffic that moves through the barns before the event.

“So many actual producers come to the ranch rodeo,” he said.

Dawn Wilson of Bashaw, Alta., said Farmfair exhibitors have enjoyed the benefit of the two shows and would hate to lose the rodeo traffic coming through the barn.

“I think it is a mistake for CFR to move downtown,” she said.

A visitor told her that she would continue coming to Farmfair but would not make the trip downtown if the rodeo moves.

Wilson hopes Northlands will create other events, possibly more horse events, to draw visitors to Farmfair.

Peter Boake of Alix, Alta., said the change in venue would likely slow the numbers of visitors to Farmfair.

“It’s very handy to stop by and check out the cattle,” he said.

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