POLITICS

Tale of two arenas: debate in Edmonton over where major rodeo should be held

11/05/2014 01:19 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST
EDMONTON - There's a debate brewing over a major rodeo that has been held in the Alberta capital for decades and the mayor says he'll step in if the two sides can't agree.

The Katz Group of Companies belonging to Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz has been talking with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association about moving the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The rodeo is the national championship and is held every November at Northlands-operated Rexall Place where the NHL Oilers now play. But Katz is trying to lure the event to the new downtown hockey arena which is due to be completed in time for the 2016 season.

That's also the year the current contract between the rodeo association and Northlands ends.

Mayor Don Iveson took part in a meeting Tuesday of a committee that was formed to look at the future use of Rexall Place. He said he’ll step in if the two sides can’t come to an agreement. His main concern is keeping the western event in the city.

“I will intervene if it becomes unconstructive or destructive between the Oilers and Northlands. If it runs the risk of losing us the event, then I’ll intervene," he said.

"But at this point, as long as every one is focused on keeping it in Edmonton, then some of this will have to play out on its own.”

Iveson said that, ideally, a way can be found to "optimize whatever venues are going to be in place in 2016 and beyond, to be able to host a great event with great concerts, and great trade experience ... and all of the other pieces that have made the event successful for a long time.”

He said he’s heard a suggestion that the rodeo could stay at Rexall Place, while the downtown arena would be the venue for concerts during rodeo week.

“I’ve certainly heard it suggested that it would make sense to keep the dusty event in the older building, and that it might make sense to continue to run sporting events and concerts at the newer building (to) keep the dirt and dust and livestock out of the downtown building.”

He acknowledged that would require a "measure of collaboration between the Oilers and Northlands that does not yet exist.”

“That would be an ideal outcome. I don’t know if that’s possible at this point either financially or whether the parties can come together. I would hope that if there’s a problem, it’s a financial problem rather than a butting of heads between the organizations.”

The Canadian Finals Rodeo is also the final event of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association season.

It has been held in Edmonton since 1974 and has a prize purse worth $1.5 million. Many city businesses count on the tourists the event brings in each year to bolster their bottom lines.

This year's edition runs Nov. 5-9.

(CHED, The Canadian Press)