Westerner Park in Red Deer wants to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo from 2018 until 2028, and will make a formal pitch to the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association next week.
"Respecting the history that the rodeo has been in Alberta for 44 years, we want it to stay in Alberta and we think Red Deer is its next home," Ben Antifaiff, the venue's CEO and general manager, told CBC News on Wednesday. "We don't want to just do this once and not do it again. For us, having a multiyear deal is extremely important."
Westerner Park, in partnership with the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce, will present the pitch to the rodeo association on Nov. 30.
The Canadian Finals Rodeo, held in Edmonton since its inception 44 years ago, is on the move because the Northlands Coliseum is scheduled to close at the end of the year.
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'Slightly different' model
Westerner Park, home to Red Deer Rebels junior hockey and numerous concerts and banquets, has about 8,000 seats, about half the number at the Northlands arena. Antifaiff said to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo the venue, which has been in talks with the rodeo association for the past few months, would use a "slightly different" model.
Antifaiff said he isn't ready to reveal the details, which will be provided to the rodeo association in private.
"Just because we're smaller doesn't mean that we can't put on a great show and we can't structure it in a manner that provides the level of support that CPRA would need to put on a finals event," Antifaiff said.
The rodeo events would take place in the Centrium, he said, noting there are livestock stables and facilities on the premises for competitors to warm up.
"This is a one-stop event for CFR," Antifaiff said. "We can do everything on our property."
Each November, Westerner Park and the chamber of commerce partner to put on the Agri-Trade Equipment Expo.
"We do a good job in working together for an event, and the rodeo would complement an existing agricultural trade show that happens," Antifaiif said. "It's quite natural in our minds for CFR to come to Red Deer."
If the venue was to land the event, Antifaiff said early estimates indicate there could be an economic spinoff of $30 million in the central Alberta region.
A destination for sports tourism
While the city is not a formal partner in the bid, Mayor Tara Veer said she's been briefed by the parties behind it.
"I think that Red Deer, as a community, we have worked hard over the past couple of years to position ourselves as a destination for tourism, and sports tourism in particular," Veer said.
The city hosted the Western Hockey League's 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup and will host the 2019 Canada Winter Games, Veer said, citing the events as evidence the city has the capacity to handle the CFR.
Veer noted Red Deer's "prime geographic location," not only between Edmonton and Calgary but in Western Canada. She suggested that likely contributed to why the city ended up on the rodeo association's short list.
"It's a strong indication of Red Deer's capacity to host national events of this magnitude," Veer said.
Red Deer is one of many cities in Western Canada, including Edmonton, with parties bidding to host the CFR in the future.