'Going in disappointed': Longtime rodeo fans gear up for final CFR at Northlands Coliseum

This year will be the Canadian Finals Rodeo's last year in the Coliseum — which is in the back of the couple's minds as they prepare for the event, starting Wednesday.

Ken Hale and his wife Linda Forre have attended the rodeo for the past 25 years

Dirt has replaced the ice at Northlands Coliseum in preparation for the 44th and final Canadian Finals Rodeo at that venue. (CBC)

Every year for the past 25 years, Ken Hale and his wife Linda Forre have gone to the Canadian Finals Rodeo at Northlands Coliseum. 

This year will be the CFR's last year in the Coliseum — which is in the back of the couple's minds as they head into the start of the event on Wednesday.

"We're going in disappointed that it's going to be the last," Hale said Monday. "Overall, we're very grateful that we've been fortunate to go."

They've been sitting in the same section, 126, for the last 10 years. In that section, the couple is surrounded by friends and family members of many of the competitors.

"We're just amazed at how they can dedicate themselves to stand up, say, for their husbands or wives, for what they go through the whole year," Hale said.

"It's a great sense of community," Forre said. "You get to run into people you maybe see once a year."

Admiration for the competitors and the excitement are what have brought the couple back to the CFR year after year.

"It's the adrenalin throughout the whole building," Hale said. "It gets you on the edge of your seat."

CFR future home undecided

Preparations for this year's CFR are in full swing. The ice surface at the Coliseum has been removed and replaced with dirt.
The ice surface at Northlands Coliseum has been removed and replaced with dirt in preparation for the CFR, which runs from Nov. 8 to 12. (CBC)

But the location of next year's CFR is still up in the air.

"Obviously I think it needs to happen in Western Canada because there's just such a marketplace for it," said Tim Reid, Northlands president and CEO. "My hope has always been that we find a way to keep it here in Edmonton."

Reid said the event, along with FarmFair, is worth around $50 million to the city's economy.

Any decision on the CFR's future is out of Reid's hands with control of the Coliseum to be turned over to the City of Edmonton as of Jan. 1.

"The future is a bit undetermined," said Jeff Robson, spokesperson with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. "We have to look at what's best for our association and the event."

There are four cities that have shown interest in hosting the event. Robson won't say who the other contenders are, except that "Edmonton is one of them," and that the CFR is in discussions with the Oilers Entertainment Group to potentially use Rogers Place as a venue.

My hope has always been that we find a way to keep it here in Edmonton.-  Tim Reid, Northlands president and CEO

For longtime rodeo fan Hale, the possibility of CFR moving to Rogers Place raises some questions.

"The prices are going to be jacked up a little bit due to the fact it's a new building," he said. "Another concern would be parking."

Then there are the questions around the animals used in the various rodeo events. "Where are they going to put the livestock?" he asked.

Robson said a final decision on the CFR's future won't be known until after this year's event, but said the association is determined to find a new home that's suitable for rodeo fans.

"This is a juncture for generations," Robson said. "We need to make sure generations to come are going to get every bit or more opportunity than we had."