Edmonton

Downtown Edmonton arena could drive out rodeo: CFR

A new downtown Edmonton arena to replace Rexall Place could threaten one of the biggest annual events in the city, say officials with the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

A new downtown Edmonton arena to replace Rexall Place could threaten one of the biggest annual events in the city, say officials with the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The debate over a new arena moved into high gear Tuesday after a committee appointed by Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel recommended a facility be built in the downtown core with a mix of public and private funding.

The prospect raises questions about what will happen to Rexall Place, which was built in the mid-'70s, if a new arena is built.

"It's a great facility for what we do there," said Jim Pippolo, general manager of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association which runs the Canadian Finals Rodeo(CFR). The event packs Rexall Place every fall, and along with Farm Fair International, brings in about $50 million in economic activity.

The present stadium works well for the rodeo because it is in north Edmonton, with lots of space for the livestock, Pippolo said.

"I'm not saying new buildings aren't even better, for sure they are a lot of times. But it's … going to take a lot of extra work to have it in a different facility away from where we're at right now."

The CFR has a contract to hold the event in Edmonton until 2013.

If shuttling cattle back and forth downtown proves to be too complicated and costly, they will consider moving elsewhere, said Pippolo.

The owners of Rexall Place, Edmonton Northlands, are ruling out the possibility of keeping it open as is, if a new arena is built.

"We can't have two competing large-scale facilities," Jerry Bouma, chair of the board, said Wednesday.

"Rexall will change in terms of its purpose and obviously its scale."

With files from John Archer

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