The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association has less than 11 months to plan the 45th Canadian Finals Rodeo in a new venue.
Jeff Robson, a representative of the CPRA, confirmed a list of three cities — and a potential fourth. Two are in Alberta, and two are not, he said.
Edmonton, Red Deer and Saskatoon are all in contention. Robson said it was too early to say anything about the fourth city.
While he said that it would be great to have a plan before the new year, figuring out where to hold the event is "not a fast, easy decision," though the group is "definitely narrowing" in on one.
"I feel very confident we're going to see the event happen," he said. "Let's see if we can find a longer-term partnership that will work for us and help us with our mission, which is to grow the event."
Edmonton council announced in September it will close Northlands Coliseum, the location of the rodeo for 44 years.
When looking for the event's next home, Robson said the CPRA is prioritizing sustainability and longevity, two factors that contributed to its success at Northlands.
Northlands, a non-profit organization, focused on agriculture, he said, noting that holding the rodeo in concert with Farmfair International was important.
Robson said the CPRA would like to continue holding the event at the beginning of November, and there are ongoing talks with the interested venues to do just that.
"Whether we go one place or another, we want to always have options open," Robson said. "We want to have open, transparent talks about the event and what it could mean to different cities."
Wanted: long-term partner
The rodeo is not looking for a venue for only a year or two, Robson said.
The CPRA has expressed interest in keeping the rodeo in Edmonton. The only suitable venue would be Rogers Place, owned by the city but managed by the Katz Group, which also owns the Edmonton Oilers.
Rogers Place hosted the Professional Bull Riders Global Cup at the same time as the rodeo earlier this month.
"They just came off a PBR event. We just came off a CFR," Robson said. "We agreed that we would wait and see until the dust settles after those events, what's next collectively for us — or not."
There were discussions with the Katz Group in 2014 about moving the event to the city's new downtown arena before it even opened its doors.
But in 2016, the CPRA struck a memorandum of understanding with the City of Saskatoon to move event to the SaskTel Centre for 2017, 2018 and 2019. In the end, the group decided to stay at Northlands for a few more years. Now, that's no longer an option.
He noted the Saskatoon venue is slightly bigger than Westerner Park in Red Deer, which is also interested in taking over the rodeo.
There could be benefits to leaving Edmonton and moving to a smaller city, Robson said.
Westerner Park and the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce is meeting with the CPRA on Nov. 30 to share it's 10-year vision for the event.
"When we see what that might look like, it will give us a little more clarity around it," Robson said.
The Centrium, the Red Deer building where the rodeo would be held, has about 8,000 seats, half as many as the Northlands Coliseum.
"Red Deer has a little smaller venue for our fan base. That's one small concern. I don't think it would be a mountain to die on, but it is a smaller concern," Robson said.
As for the potential fourth option, "I think that's a bit early for that one," Robson said. "I think everybody's got pros and cons as to which place makes the most sense."