Hicks on Biz: One last Rodeo for Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST PUBLISHED EDMONTON SUN, Oct. 26, 2017
Well this is a real interesting kettle of horse dung, this dance between the Canadian Finals Rodeo, Professional Bull Riders, Northlands, the City of Edmonton and the Oilers Entertainment Group.
All that really counts, however, is ensuring Edmonton remains the destination of choice for rural Western Canadians in early November, once the harvest is in, it’s time to party, do the Christmas shopping and maybe buy a brand-new pick-up truck.
For 44 years, the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) at the Northlands Coliseum along with Northlands’ Farmfair International did the trick.
The “economic impact” (if you believe such specious metrics) is said to be $50 to $70 million. No matter the actual numbers, the second week of November has always been a bonanza for Edmonton hotels, truck dealerships, and country & western bars.
Suddenly, the party has become transient.
With the building of Rogers Place, the Coliseum became a white elephant. Without Coliseum revenue, Northlands is effectively bankrupt. The city has decided to take back the Coliseum, will close it down in early 2018 with demolition likely to follow.
So, no more rodeo in the Coliseum – this is it.
The city is also taking over the Northlands Expo Centre. Horse-racing is moving to a privately-run casino/race track out by the International Airport. Northlands will produce the K-Days exhibition, the Farmfair trade show and not much else.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association made the dreadful mistake last year of turning down a reasonable, long-term offer from the City of Edmonton and the Oilers Entertainment Group to stage the rodeo at Rogers Place.
We can do better, the rodeo GM said at the time, only to find the Canadian Finals Rodeo wasn’t a fit with any other Canadian city. (Calgary already has the Stampede.)
BULLS RIDE INTO TOWN
The spurned Oilers Entertainment Group wasted no time. It immediately signed a deal to bring Professional Bull Riders to Rogers Place Nov. 9 to 11, the same dates as the rodeo at the Coliseum!
It’s the first of a multi-year contract. Professional Bull Riders is part of a circuit for the sexy, global, extreme-sport version of rodeo’s most popular and thrilling event.
Professional Bull Riders is owned by one of the biggest entertainment conglomerates in the world, IMG-WME. The deep-pocketed IMG-WME plans to grow Professional Bull Riders into a much-watched extreme sport. Plus IMG-WME has a close relationship with the Oilers Group, given its artists often perform at Rogers Place.
Professional Bull Riders appears to be a superior product compared to the Canadian Finals Rodeo. Professional Bull Riders comes with a major CBS TV contract. In all its years, the Canadian Finals Rodeo never had a whiff at a TV contract of any significance.
So come this November, rodeo fans can pick between the Professional Bull Riders at Rogers Place, and/or the Canadian Finals Rodeo. I suspect the market isn’t big enough for both to be profitable.
And the reality is the Canadian Finals Rodeo has nowhere to go once this edition is done.
ROOM FOR BOTH?
Can a chastened rodeo association come back to the table, cowboy hat in hand, and beg for a revised Rogers Place deal with the City of Edmonton and the Oilers Entertainment Group, somehow wrapping around the Professional Bull Riders, concerts and The Oilers/Oil Kings schedule?
Or will the rodeo association leave town and dramatically downsize to be viable in smaller markets like Saskatoon, Regina or Winnipeg?
And if the rodeo is done like dinner in Edmonton, will Professional Bull Riders and Farmfair be a sufficient enough draw to keep bringing Alberta’s agricultural community back to town to party, party, party and spend, spend, spend in early November?
This ain’t our first rodeo. But it may be our last.