It's official: Red Deer will host the CFR for 10 years

Red Deer will host the Canadian Finals Rodeo for the next ten years.

'A new era of CFR begins here today,' says Canadian Professional Rodeo Association

The rodeo events will be hosted at the Enmax Centrium in Westerner Park. (Westerner Park)

Red Deer will host the Canadian Finals Rodeo for the next 10 years.

Terry Cooke, president of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, told a packed crowd at Red Deer's Westerner Park that he had signed the papers Tuesday morning.

"It's outstanding to be a part of this," Cooke said to a round of applause.

This is the first time the Canadian Finals Rodeo is on the move since its inception 44 years ago. The annual event used to be held in Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum, which recently closed.

The closure of the historic venue inspired the teams at Westerner Park and the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce to collaborate on a multi-year bid for the event.

Ben Antifaiff, CEO of Westerner Park, said the CFR will bring in anywhere between $20 to $30 million to the central Alberta region.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer was quick to congratulate the city and join in the celebrations after she heard the formal announcement.

"Our community will greatly benefit from the celebration, economic impact, and show of championship rodeo for years to come," she wrote in a statement.

"To the CFR and its fans, we welcome you home."

Red Deer outbid several cities for the important rodeo competition, including Edmonton and Saskatoon, for the long-term agreement.

'A new era of CFR'

The announcement included a nod to Tim Reid, outgoing CEO of Northlands Coliseum, out of respect for the traditions established in Edmonton over the last 44 years.

"The moving of an event of this magnitude and heritage that has only had one home certainly wasn't taken lightly," the partners said in a joint press release.

The CFR will stay true to its history, Antifaiff said, but not without a list of changes to the traditional rodeo Albertans know and love.

The 45th edition of the Canadian Finals Rodeo will become a six-day event from Tuesday, Oct. 30 to Sunday, Nov. 4. More night-time performances, such as cabaret shows, will be added. There will also be a separate youth competition where all participants will duke it out for a portion of a $24,000 scholarship fund.  

Rodeo professionals will be coming out in spades to compete for a hefty $1.65 million in prize money.

"This isn't our first rodeo," said Jeff Robson, spokesperson for the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. "A new era of CFR begins here today."

One criteria the association was looking for was a way to sustain the sport in a host city. Antifaiff said the CPRA loved the idea of a rising star program for young rodeo talent to gain exposure on the dirt.

Why Red Deer?

Red Deer, and much of central Alberta, is known as a hub of rodeo talent and community support for the sport, Cooke said. These were just some of the selling points that tipped the scale in the city's favour.

When he was driving through Red Deer with his wife Monday night, Cooke said he was surprised by how much the city has grown in the last few years.

"Red Deer, to me, was Gasoline Alley," he told the crowd. "I couldn't believe how big it was, how nice the downtown is."

Amanda Gould, executive director of the Red Deer Downtown Business Association, hopes the CFR will change the perception of the province's third-largest city for good.

"We have a vibrant and a healthy downtown, and so now is the time to take those people and … really allow them to see for themselves that there is more to life outside of Calgary and Edmonton," she told CBC News.

Westerner Park, located approximately 15 minutes south of Red Deer's downtown area, is the home of the Red Deer Rebels junior hockey team, as well as concerts and banquets. The Enmax Centrium, where the rodeo events will be hosted, has about 8,000 seats, half the number of the former Northlands Coliseum.

To accommodate the massive crowds attending the CFR, Antifaiff said the centre will be installing 2,000 temporary seats and hosting a simulcast of the event in another venue on site.

The park will talk about renovations to the venue if the partnership with the CFR continues past its current 10-year term, Antiffaiff continued.

The next steps for all the partners involved are to figure out accommodations for all the athletes involved.