The pressure is on for Red Deer to prepare and capitalize on the benefits of hosting the Canadian Finals Rodeo in less than nine months.
On Tuesday, Canadian Professional Rodeo Association announced the ENMAX Centrium will be the rodeo’s new home for the next 10 years starting with the 45th CFR Oct. 30 to Nov. 4.
Robin Bobocel, Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce CEO, said Red Deer and Central Alberta businesses have to start thinking about how they can tap into the $20 to $25-million annual economic injection the event brings.
Last year, when Northlands hosted the CFR, it brought 90,000 visitors to Edmonton.
“We’re going to need all the hotels in town and surrounding area. That time of year people start to do Christmas shopping, so I think there’s a whole bunch of opportunities for our business community,” Bobocel said Wednesday.
But the impact could be even wider.
He said the majority of CFR visitors may come from Western Canada, but buyers from countries like China, Mexico, Brazil and Australia who attend Farmfair in Edmonton and Agri-Trade in Red Deer, held around the same time, will also be invited to the CFR.
“We know they are coming here with their chequebook and that’s the kind of people we want to bring to Western Canada and Central Alberta.”
And the spotlight is going to be on Red Deer for months, he said.
“What a one-two punch for the community to have this year the rodeo in October, November, and following up with the Winter Games in 2019 in February.
“For me it’s another opportunity to show Alberta and Canada that Red Deer continues to punch above its weight class and knock it out of the park.
“We’re really excited to be part of this initiative to make that happen,” Bobocel said.
Ben Antifaiff, Westerner Park CEO and general manager, said 2,000 will added to the centrium’s existing 6,600 for the CFR. The majority of seats will be added on the east end where there is currently no seating, and there’s some space on the west concourse.
“There is contemplation down the road for completing the east end of the centrium and that’s always been in master site plan. Should the need arise, we’ll certainly contemplate that, but it’s not a near-term activity,” Antifaiff said.
He said off-site parking could also be made available if necessary.
“We’ve already had experience doing off-site parking during Westerner Days and we’ve got that process nailed down. We have the ability to park an additional 400 vehicles in very close proximity and a process to transport folks back and forth.”
He said detailed planning for the rodeo is underway. There will be lots of opportunities for volunteers and announcements on entertainment and community events during Rodeo Week during the CFR are coming.
“There will be some really exciting news to share in the coming weeks,” Antifaiff said.
Together Westerner Park and the chamber of commerce must raise $1.65 million annually in rodeo prize money.
Bobocel said things like ticket sales and sponsorship will cover the prizes. Organizers will be reaching out to rodeo sponsors who supported the Edmonton event as well as local businesses.
“I think in the past maybe there hasn’t been a need or desire from the Red Deer and Central Alberta business community to engage in the CFR because it was in Edmonton. But now that it’s home there’s a bunch of opportunity for local businesses of all sizes to participate, sponsor and support this initiative.”
People will also have the opportunity to support for charities like a scholarship program for young rodeo athletes, and the Rodeo Cowboys Benevolent Foundation that assists athletes facing financial hardship due to rodeo-related injuries.
He said so far organizers haven’t asked for support from any level of government.
Amanda Gould, executive director with Red Deer Downtown Business Association, said she can’t wait to see the 10-year impact of hosting the CFR.
“Once you know there’s a number of big events that happen it definitely makes it more attractive place for business to start up. Maybe we’ll even see entrepreneurs launching out of the need to serve this sector,” Gould said.
She said the downtown is only 12ish minutes away from Westerner Park and the CFR is a great opportunity to show people what the downtown has to offer. Some visitors will want to travel to nearby Calgary or Edmonton so it’s up to Red Deerians to let them know the city has everything they need.
“We’re lucky to have it and it’s time to showcase it.”