Edmonton

City blindsided by Canadian Finals Rodeo return

The City of Edmonton wasn’t part of the negotiations to keep the Canadian Finals Rodeo in town, says Mayor Don Iveson, who wonders how two more years of the event will impact the repurposing of Northlands Coliseum.

‘It does raise some questions because we’re actively considering repurposing that building,’ mayor says

Northlands Coliseum, formerly known as Rexall Place, hasn't seen its last rodeo. (Edmonton Northlands)

The City of Edmonton wasn't part of the negotiations to keep the Canadian Finals Rodeo in town, says Mayor Don Iveson, who wonders how two more years of the event will impact the repurposing of Northlands Coliseum.

The city, Northlands and the Oilers Entertainment group had made a final offer in March to renew the rodeo contract, but it was rejected by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. At the time, Rogers Place was nearing completion and the future of Northlands Coliseum — then known as Rexall Place — was up in the air.

It's intriguing that talks continued. They have not included the city.- Mayor Don Iveson

Three months later, the rodeo association signed a memorandum of understanding with the City of Saskatoon to move the Canadian Finals Rodeo to the SaskTel Centre.

That deal has now fallen apart.

City can't promote events at Coliseum

"It looked like it was a done deal, that it was going somewhere else," Iveson said Tuesday.

The mayor was caught off-guard by Monday's announcement Edmonton would be keeping the rodeo even though he is a city appointee to the Northlands board of directors

"It's intriguing that talks continued," Iveson said. "They have not included the city because we're not in a position to actively promote any events going into the Coliseum."

The city's master agreement with the Oilers Entertainment Group, which operates Rogers Place, prevents the city from providing resources to support events or upgrade the older facility.  

Coun. Michael Oshry, also a city appointee to the Northlands board, said he doesn't think the Oilers Entertainment Group is involved in this latest development.

"At the end of the day, Northlands and the rodeo association made a deal to keep it here," Oshry said.

But when asked if Northlands convinced the rodeo association to stay in the city, Oshry said, "I wasn't party to the actual negotiations so I don't know that for sure."   

The Canadian Finals Rodeo is coming back to Edmonton. (Dale MacMillan)

Northlands getting a makeover 

Even before the Oilers and many major concerts moved in the fall to Rogers Place, Northlands, the non-profit organization that runs the Coliseum, was trying to reimagine the venue.

The group has proposed multi-million dollar changes to the the horse-racing track, casino, Expo Centre, and the arena itself, which could be converted into a multiplex with several ice surfaces.

Iveson said the multiplex idea had the support of the Oilers Entertainment Group and Hockey Canada and this new development "does add some tension to that ongoing work."

While Northlands has a lease in good standing on the Coliseum, meaning it can continue to operate the space as it wishes, Iveson said he wanted to get started on renovations.

"I was hoping next year we'd figure out what it would look like, how much it was going to cost, how we would pay for it," he said.

"This could throw a bit of a wrench in that."

Coun. Tony Caterina, who also sits on the Northlands board, thinks the opposite.

'It actually doesn't fly in the face of it at all because the revitalization of Northlands Coliseum would be a number of years down the road.' - Coun. Tony Caterina

"It actually doesn't fly in the face of it at all because the revitalization of Northlands Coliseum would be a number of years down the road — I think it was 2019. This sort of fits into the scenario that for the next couple of years, certainly could be accommodated," Caterina said.

"I think that this gives everybody some breathing room — Northlands, in particular, the city, in particular — to have a chance now to really take a good look at this," he said.

He added that the security the event brings will provide some temporary reassurance to the staff who have been faced with downsizing over the past few months.

But Caterina said he doesn't have any information, either, about the deal to keep the rodeo in Edmonton, including about the length or terms of the contract, which at the outset to be for 2017 and 2018, or how the city might get involved. 

Iveson wonders whether there will be a willingness from the CPRA to keep the event in Edmonton, but at a different location.

OEG has a deal with Professional Bull Riders to hold an event at Rogers Place in November that coincides with Edmonton's Farm Fair exhibition. 

"If we're going to keep rodeo, we'd have to figure out long term, medium term, even short term, how to move it downtown," Iveson said.

"There's a lot of moving pieces."

Details on the future of the Canadian Finals Rodeo will be announced Wednesday morning at Northlands.

roberta.bell@cbc.ca

@roberta__bell