A final proposal to keep the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton beyond 2016 has been rejected, and organizers are now considering proposals from several cities interested in hosting the event.
But the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association appeared on Wednesday to leave the barn door open to the possibility that the rodeo, one of the city's signature events, may yet remain in its long-time home.
The current contract between the CPRA and Northlands expires at the end of 2016.
The city, Northlands and the Oilers Entertainment Group put an offer on the table to renew that contract before the deadline of March 1.
But that offer was rejected by the CPRA and the deadline has now passed.
"We put our best foot forward and we upped the ante pretty significantly from what's been offered in the past years," said Coun. Michael Oshry, who sits on the Northlands board of directors.
"We really thought that we'd have a deal done, and at this point we're very disappointed that they didn't agree with our offer."
Oshry said he doesn't know why the deal was rejected, but speculated the rodeo association is going to put out a tender to see if other cities might be interested in hosting the event.
The Oilers Entertainment Group said the door is rapidly closing and while the deal is not yet dead, there are no current negotiations.
"The bid that we gave is the best bid we'll come out with, from OEG," said CEO Bob Nicholson.
The CPRA said in a news release Wednesday its original intention was to go through the request for proposal process with several cities that have expressed interest in hosting CFR 2017.
"Out of respect to the coming 43-year history in Edmonton, in October 2015 the CPRA offered OEG and the City of Edmonton a 60-day grace period to submit a new proposal for CFR," the release said.
"That grace period was honoured and then extended, well beyond the 60 days in an attempt to come to a mutual agreement."
In the end, the CPRA board unanimously voted down the Edmonton proposal.
General manager Dan Eddy said prize money and uncertainty over ticket prices were the deal breakers.
"Our cowboys and cowgirls and stock contractors have been locked into an agreement that's been pretty tight
and I think it's just time to do what's best for the membership," he said.
The board of directors has authorized the CPRA negotiating committee to pursue other opportunities, he said.
"Request for proposal documents will now be to sent to all cities that have shown interest in hosting the event, including the city of Edmonton."
CFR economic benefits
The rodeo and Farm Fair pump about $80 million a year into the local economy, said Maggie Davison, vice-president of tourism for the Edmonton Economic Development Group.
"That's the larger, fully encompassed economic impact number," she said. "And that would get right down to dollars and cents spent in restaurants, right to the dealership that sells the new truck."
What adds to the financial significance is that the rodeo is an annual event and happens every November, a time of year that can be slower for some businesses, Davison said.
"We would have to work very, very hard to find an event to replace it," she said. "This was one of the anchor events for us here in Edmonton."
Coun. Ed Gibbons said other cities have tried to steer wrestle the rodeo away from Edmonton for years.
"What's at stake is the fact that it's been ours for so long," he said. "We just have to hope that when it goes out for tender, and every municipality that's going after it lays everything out there, ours comes out on top and we keep it."
The main competition appears to come from Vancouver, Gibbons said.
The CFR has been held in Edmonton since 1974.