Future of rodeo in Edmonton back on the table, right after the dust settles
Professional Bull Riders Global Cup says lower turnout was expected for the inaugural event in Edmonton
As the cowboys and cowgirls hang their hats after a weekend of rodeo in Edmonton, the Professional Bull Riders Global Cup is reflecting on the success of its inaugural event.
Held at Rogers Place from Nov. 8-11, the first Global Cup brought professional bull riders together from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Australia to compete for a grand payout of $1 million.
PBR has been hosting bull riding events in Canadian cities since 2006, but this is the first time it has hosted a competition with international teams.
Inside the arena, sections of upper-level seating were blocked off, and none of the weekend's events sold out. Attendance and ticket sales statistics were not made available.
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Sean Gleason, CEO of PBR, said lower turnout was expected for the Global Cup's first time in Edmonton, held during the same weekend as the Canadian Finals Rodeo — an event with a 44-year-long legacy in the city.
"We grow over time in a market," Gleason said. "We like to find places where we're liked and appreciated. We win our fans over one at a time. We didn't intend to compete with CFR. We don't see rodeos as competition."
PBR is known for its bull riding events that mix rodeo with pulsating rock concerts and explosive pyrotechnic displays, drawing a younger crowd. The organization was attracted to hosting the competition in Edmonton because of the city's western culture.
We win our fans over one at a time. We didn't intend to compete with CFR. We don't see rodeos as competition.- Sean Gleason, Professional Bull Riders
The CFR, by contrast, is a traditional rodeo held at Northlands Coliseum. It offers a wide range of events including steer wrestling, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, and is linked to Farmfair International at the Expo Centre. This was its final year at Northlands.
The SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon was supposed to take the reins for the 2017 event but the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association rescinded its agreement last year, bringing the event back to Edmonton and in direct competition with PBR.
PBR reached out to the CFR to try and organize an improved schedule where both events would perform better. The organization didn't receive a reply.
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Discussions are underway about the possibility of merging the two major events into one.
A spokesperson for the Oilers Entertainment Group told CBC News one of the possibilities includes merging the PBR and the CFR into a 10-day event on back-to-back weekends.
Gleason said the PBR already hosts a two-day event in Arlington, Texas, where the professional bull riders take to the dirt on the first night, and rodeo enthusiasts turn up for the Iron Cowboy the next day.
Either way, discussions about the future of rodeo in Edmonton will begin right after the dust settles, Gleason said.
"Edmonton is sitting on the precipice of having a major PBR and a major rodeo event happening in the same weekend, and there aren't many places where that happens," he said.
With files from Andrea Ross