These days, rodeo is a big business and with its many disciplines, the sport currently attracts millions of fans and contestants, most notably younger athletes and females. Nationwide, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctions more than 600 rodeos, and a multitude of others are operated independently.
Rodeo, which traces back to the 1820s in the U.S. and Northern Mexico, has become a staple on many TV and cable networks as well as other media outlets. For instance, in 2021, the Cowboy Channel (formerly FamilyNet) reached more than 42 million homes. As rodeo’s audiences have grown, so, too, has the prize money. In fact, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo payout increased to $13.3 million in 2021.
Rodeo’s booming popularity is good news for destinations that have invested in large, multi-purpose venues offering open space, plenty of seating and facilities to accommodate large animals in a manner consistent with animal welfare rules. Here is a roundup of some top locales that are willing and able to help event owners grab the bull by the horns.
Rodeo is a big deal here, and the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa is the premier multi-event complex in the area, located 20 minutes from downtown Boise and centrally located between Seattle, Portland, Reno and Salt Lake City. The venue features a 120,000-square-foot arena and a horse park.
The arena, home of the Snake River Stampede — a 107-year-old event that is one of the top 10 regular season professional rodeos in the nation — holds 12,279 spectators. The facility also has two DVN video displays, a Bose PA system, state-of-the-art lighting for televised events, four dressing/locker rooms, a star dressing room, two production rooms, a training room, offices and multi-purpose rooms.
The Ford Idaho Horse Park covers more than 110 acres and can accommodate 850 horses. It includes an indoor and an outdoor arena, multiple show arenas, an English riding facility, a Grand Prix course, warm-up pens, stock pens and stalls.
Although the Ford Idaho Center can accommodate rodeos of all sizes, it is most suitable for larger events such as men’s and women’s pro competitions and the annual Professional Bull Rider (PBR) Tour. “The Ford Idaho Center hosts multiple rodeo events every year, typically in late-summer/early-fall, with the larger rodeos coming from out of state,” says Shea Andersen, Vice President of Fahlgren Mortine. “We would definitely be receptive to more rodeo events occurring, and we’re open to inquiries.”
Edmond offers two top-notch venues for rodeo competitions: Edmond Round Up Club’s Carl Benne Arena, and Lazy E Arena. The Carl Benne Arena is an outdoor facility that hosts 16 rodeos annually, including the Edmond Jr. Rodeo Series and the Edmond LibertyFest IPRA & Open Rodeo. Bleachers on both sides of the arena can seat up to 1,000 spectators, and other amenities include a warm-up area, bucking shoots, rough stock pens, roping box, announcer stand, an office with pay window, concession stands, restrooms and pasture parking.
“Whether you attend Edmond rodeos as a family for entertainment or as a competitor, Edmond Round-Up Club has a hometown rodeo community for all occasions,” says Jennifer Cocoma Hustis, Edmond Round Up Club board member and founder of Art of Horsemanship LLC.
Meanwhile, Lazy E Arena, which bills itself as the world’s largest indoor rodeo arena, hosts more than nine full-scale rodeo events each year. The 2021 Cinch Timed Event Championship attracted 13,260 visitors and had an economic impact of $13.1 million. The 2021 International Finals Rodeo drew more than 18,000 visitors, resulting in economic impact of $14.5 million, and the 2020 National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals logged 4,800 visitors and resulted in $9.8 million in economic impact.
“We have 36 event weekends a year filled with diverse rodeos,” remarks Helen Price, Director of Operations for Lazy E Arena. “Our rural countryside location maximizes the experience for both participants and audiences.”
Here in the Cowboy State, CAM-PLEX is the premier multi-use event facility, encompassing more than 1,000 acres. For rodeo events, CAM-PLEX offers Morningside Park, a 3,000-seat outdoor arena for rough stock and timed events, encircled by a 7/8-mile horseracing track.
The East Pavilion provides a 52,500-square-foot indoor arena with bleacher seating for up to 1,375 people, and the Central Pavilion has a 42,000-square-foot open activity area with seating for up to 5,000 spectators. There is also the outdoor Wrangler Arena and the adjacent Little Levi Arena, as well as Barn 3 that can accommodate portable bleachers, panels and stalls.
CAM-PLEX hosts a variety of rodeo competitions including the 2021 National High School Finals Rodeo, which had 6,000 attendees and an estimated economic impact of $10 million. The event will continue in 2022 and 2023, as will the NRCA Finals Rodeo and the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo. The annual Energy Capital Junior Rodeo and the annual Little Levi Rodeo remain on the docket, too.
“Over 18 rodeo events are estimated to take place at CAM-PLEX each year and our staff prides itself on having year-round rodeo competition and entertainment,” says Keith Howard, Senior Sales Manager, CAM-PLEX Event Facility. “We have the expertise to produce high-quality events of almost any size and scope.”
Jackson County, Florida
Florida’s second-oldest county is home to the 29-acre Jackson County Agriculture Center in Marianna. This multi-purpose facility is ideal for rodeo, boasting a covered arena and uncovered practice area, an outdoor arena, bleacher seating for 600, and 140 covered stalls in two barns. Showers and dressing areas, restrooms, a concession area with vendors on-site, and an indoor banquet and a multi-purpose room round out the package.
Most rodeo competitions occur from August through May, and past events have included the annual USTRC Panhandle Championship-Team Roping, NCAA Barrel Racing, private sponsor barrel race, and regional rodeo events with bull riding, barrel racing and roping.
“We host 20 to 25 events per year and we want to expand,” says Christy Andreasen, Executive Director, Jackson County Tourist Development Council. “We’re always looking for ways to increase participation and availability of activities and events, and we want to increase awareness of equestrian and rodeo sports for all ages. Please contact the Jackson County TDC to learn how to host your event for free at the Jackson County Agriculture Center.”
Missouri State Fairgrounds, Sedalia, Missouri
For more than a century, the Missouri State Fair has played an essential role in Sedalia, a city that once served as an important railhead for massive cattle drives. Today, the locale is a draw for rodeo competitors and fans, and the Fairgrounds regularly hosts the National Federation of Professional Bullriders (NFPB).
“Not only are we centrally located in the State of Missouri, but we are also centrally located within the country, which is very beneficial when having larger rodeos,” says Steven Sims, Concessions/Off-Season Events manager, Missouri State Fair. “Being in the middle of the state places us within reasonable driving distances with tourist attractions such as Kansas City, the Lake of the Ozarks and St. Louis. We also have connections with many local concessionaires due to our annual Missouri State Fair, therefore we can often supply concession vendors for our events.”
Missouri State Fairgrounds has two rodeo-friendly venues. The Mathewson Exhibition Center indoor arena can seat about 3,200 people and is primarily used during the winter. The outdoor State Fair Arena is used for the 11-day Fair in August as the base site of rodeo and bull riding events and has permanent seating for 2,500. Also onsite are close to 400 permanent horse stalls, open-air warm-up arenas, cattle barns, ample parking and other buildings that can be used for vendors, banquets and other needs.
Palm Beach County, Florida
Palm Beach County is home to national and local rodeo events, typically held at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center’s Western Event Arena, and the South Florida Fair Agriplex. Both sizes of events attract rodeo enthusiasts from inside and outside the county.
The Jim Brandon Equestrian Center is a 111-acre showplace operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. The covered and lighted Western Event Arena covers 37,500 square feet and offers two permanent barns with 128 stalls, plus tent pads for additional temporary stabling. The smaller Flex Fence Arena measures 27,000 square feet. The Center also has nine miles of equestrian surface trails. The facility regularly hosts the Palm Beach County Mounted Posse for barrel racing shows. The South Florida Fair Agriplex features 51,000 square feet of usable exhibit space, and has been home to several rodeo competitions including the Arrigo Dodge Ram Rodeo.
“The Palm Beach County Sports Commission is always looking to expand the breadth of existing events,” says Austin Lee, Marketing, Communications & Public Relations Manager, Palm Beach County Sports Commission. “Year-round warm weather has established this destination as the perfect place for rodeo events in all seasons, especially the winter months.”
This locale is a natural for rodeo events. The main venues are the Evergreen Equestrian Park and the Angel of the Winds Arena. The Evergreen Equestrian Park boasts a 60,000-square-foot arena (with a 26,000-square-foot dirt show ring and 2,700 permanent bleacher seats), one covered outdoor arena, three uncovered arenas, lunging areas, 402 box stalls in four barns, wash racks, trailer and RV parking and concessions. The Park previously hosted the Buzz Inn Hell on Hooves Rough Stock Rodeo in 2017-2019, and the Evergreen State Fair Rodeo, a Professional Western Rodeo Association Pro-West Rodeo.
“The Evergreen Equestrian Park at the Evergreen Fair Park hosts at least two rodeos a year, and is one of the busiest equestrian facilities for events in the Pacific Northwest,” says Tammy Dunn, Executive Director, Snohomish County Sports Commission. She adds that in 2019, the Rodeo at the Evergreen State Fair drew 5,000 people and 200 participants.
At the multi-purpose, 8,300-seat Angel of the Winds Arena, event planners can take advantage of 57,000 square feet of space, along with four locker rooms, a physical training center, a JumboTron in the center of the arena, concessions, internet and Wi-Fi. The 2016 Professional Roughneck Series was previously hosted here, and the facility is seeking to add a rodeo events to the calendar. SDM
Rodeo? Deschutes Can Do It All!
Rodeo, livestock, agricultural and equestrian events are a great fit for the Deschutes Fair & Expo Center in Deschutes, Oregon. The 340-acre site is home to Oregon’s largest annual county fair and features nearly 200,000 square feet of flexible indoor space, a 95,000-square-foot barn complex, three arenas including the 4,000-seat First Interstate Bank Center and more than 75 acres of beautifully manicured lawn. And central Oregon, east of the Cascade Mountains, is a unique high-desert area with about 300 days of sunshine a year. Visit expo.deschutes.org and you’ll see why we’ve earned our slogan, “We really can do it all!”