The Canadian Finals Rodeo is a big financial boon for Red Deer during a tough time, and is worth a $50,000 investment, most city councillors decided Monday.
In a seven-to-one vote, council approved a request from Westerner Park to provide half of a $100,000 sponsorship for the rodeo that’s returning to Red Deer for a second year this fall.
The CFR’s inaugural run in the city in 2018 added from $20 million to $25 million to the local economy through restaurant meals, hotel stays and shopping, said Tara Lodewyk, the city’s planning services director.
She predicted the CFR will continue to fuel the local economy by this amount for however many years it returns to the city.
Council heard a five-year contract was signed by the CFR, Westerner Park and the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce in 2018, with an option to renew it for another five years after that.
Lodewyk recommended supporting the CFR‘s sponsorship request, which allows the city to advertise itself with banners and signs during the rodeo. Lodewyk noted the event fits with the city’s strategic plan to market Red Deer as a sports tourism centre and diversify the economy.
Red Deer County council already approved giving the CFR the other $50,000. But some county councillors had balked at being asked again for what they thought was a one-time funding request. And the same concern arose in Red Deer city council.
Coun. Vesna Higham questioned whether that kind of money should be given to the CFR at a time when the city is already pressed to keep taxes down while maintaining services during a time of declining revenues.
While the CFR generates a lot of business, it has an agreement to return to here regardless of whether the city sponsors it, said Higham.
She expressed concerns about creating a precedent with other groups. Beyond that, Higham said her opposition to the funding request “is a point of principle. I don’t remember (the request) being presented as a one-time request on an on-going basis last year.”
But others on council felt it could take the sports event a few years to become fiscally solvent. This was confirmed by Lodewyk, who told council the CFR lost money in its first year, but organizers have learned what to do to turn a future profit.
The CFR partners indicated they would need sponsorships for the first three years, then be on more stable economic footing, said Mayor Tara Veer.
Coun. Michael Dawe urged support for the CFR, since there are “escape clauses” in the agreement that would allow it to pull out of the city if staying in Red Deer meant sustaining repeated financial losses.
Coun. Lawrence Lee and most others on council saw the popular event as an opportunity to showcase Red Deer to visitors and to help local businesses.
“It’s an investment for the whole community,” added Coun. Ken Johnston.