Bucking Convention: Rodeo Has New Grounds for Growth
2 Nov, 2020By: Judy Leand
With an American fan base exceeding 43 million people, ever-increasing media coverage (and prize purses), as well as a new focus on attracting younger contestants, rodeo has transcended its rural and Western roots and is continuing to broaden its appeal. Many major rodeos are expanding their popularity by finding new ways to engage fans. These efforts include developing new events, adding sponsorships and even providing mobile apps.
Nationwide, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) sanctions more than 600 rodeos, and countless more are operated independently. In fact, to help fuel the sport’s growth, the PRCA formed the Jr. Rodeo Association in December 2019. The initiative is designed to provide participants ages eight to 19 the opportunity to learn and take part in various rodeo events, and to identify up-and-coming competitors.
All of this is good news for destinations that have invested in large, multi-purpose venues complete with 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 interested in corralling upcoming events.
Rodeo is a big draw here, and the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa is the premier multi-event complex in the area, situated just 20 miles from downtown Boise and centrally located between Seattle, Portland, Reno and Salt Lake City. The venue features an arena and a horse park. The 120,000-square-foot arena, home of the Snake River Stampede, has two DVN video displays, a Bose PA system and state-of-the-art lighting ideal for televised events.
Also onsite are four dressing/locker rooms, a star dressing room, two production rooms, a training room, three offices, an all-purpose room and a multi-purpose/catering room. The Ford Idaho Horse Park spans more than 110 acres and can house 850 horses. It boasts an indoor and an outdoor arena, multiple show arenas, an English riding facility, a Grand Prix course, warm-up pens, stock pens and stalls.
“With a capacity of 12,279, the Ford Idaho Center arena can accommodate large rodeos for multiple days and is near capacity for the duration of larger rodeos,” says Brandon Fudge, sports sales manager at the Boise CVB.
Although the venue can accommodate competitions of all shapes and sizes, it is most suitable for larger events such as men’s and women’s pro competitions and the annual Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour – which is classified as an extreme sport but has its roots in rodeo.
“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,” Fudge says. “We have a community that would definitely be receptive to more rodeo events occurring, and we’re open to
Deschutes Fair & Expo Center, Redmond, Oregon
The Deschutes County region in Central Oregon has a storied rodeo tradition, and the Deschutes Fair & Expo Center has received the NPRA Rodeo of the Year award for more than 18 years. The venue has hosted both youth and professional events including Pee Wee Rodeo for youth, high school rodeo teams, the Columbia River Pro Rodeo Association, PRCA, the National Pro Rodeo, and is home to the High Desert Stampede Rodeo.
Rodeo event owners can take advantage of the 270,000-square-foot First Interstate Bank Center indoor arena, plus an equestrian and livestock complex with four arenas, five barns and 400 stalls. The onsite team at Deschutes Fair & Expo provides a variety of services, including set-up of both the rodeo venue and all the additional production needs, including a customized rodeo arena, locations of all livestock pens, chutes, VIP arena seating, VIP rooms, media rooms, pre- and post-activities locations for meet and greet, athlete autograph signings and post-rodeo party celebrations and dances.
“Deschutes Expo is known as the Northwest’s premier location for any kind of livestock and equestrian event and is home to the Northwest Pro Rodeo Association sanctioned Deschutes Rodeo. It is also an annual ProRodeo Tour Top 60 PRCA rodeo stop for the High Desert Stampede, and new this year, the PRCA Chute Out,” says Roxia Thornton Todoroff, director of sales and marketing for Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center. “We take pride in hosting over 100 years of rodeo.
“Edmond’s location and history embraces Western culture. Rodeos and equestrian events bring citizens and visitors together to experience the ‘cowboy way’ of boots and brawl and raw talent,” says Jennifer Seaton, director of Visit Edmond. The locale, situated just north of Oklahoma City, boasts two top-tier venues: the Lazy E Arena and the Edmond Round Up Club/Carl Benne Arena.
The Lazy E has a climate-controlled area, the Main Arena, with a floor measuring 160’ x 440’, and the adjoining covered Reliance Arena, which measures 150’ x 300’. The Main Arena provides one of the largest competition floor spaces in the nation and can seat 7,400. The Reliance Arena patio provides casual-style seating and has hosted parties of up to 600. The property also provides 584 permanent stalls, 770 RV hookups and the Roper’s Cantina.
Lazy E hosts a broad array of rodeo events for pros, high school, youth and everything in between.
“We offer competitions like our own Cinch Timed Event Championship and World Championship Youth Rodeo (new for 2021), as well as leased events such as International Finals Rodeo, World Championship Rodeo Alliance and National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals,” says Jessica Johnson, Lazy E Arena’s director of events. She notes that there are nine full-scale rodeo events slated for 2021, plus a variety of other standalone competitions such as Rising Stars Calf Roping and the Barrel Futurities of America World Championship. The facility is currently planning to add more permanent stalls, a multi-purpose area, and enhanced amenities for cattle and livestock.
Meanwhile, the Edmond Round Up Club’s Carl Benne Arena is an outdoor facility that has hosted the Edmond Jr. Rodeo series, the Edmond LibertyFest IPRA & Open Rodeo, special competitions such as bull riding, playdays (informal competitions), and practice nights. Bleachers on both sides of the arena can hold up to 1,000 spectators and there’s also room to spread out on lawn chairs and blankets.
“We’re always looking to add other events, and in years to come, we will strive for the Edmond Jr. Rodeo series to expand,” says Kimberly Benne-Gray, secretary/treasurer, Edmond Round Up Club/Carl Benne Arena.
Jackson County, Florida
Florida’s second-oldest county is situated in the northwest part of the state, one hour west of Tallahassee and one hour north of Panama City. Here, the key rodeo facility is the 29-acre multi-purpose Jackson County Agriculture Center in Marianna. The property includes a covered arena and uncovered practice area; an outdoor arena; 140 covered stalls in two barns; restrooms, showers and dressing areas; a concession area with vendor on-site; and an indoor banquet hall and a multi-purpose room.
Most rodeo competitions take place 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-level rodeo events with bull riding, barrel racing and roping.
“We host 20 to 25 events per year and are wishing to expand,” says Christy Andreasen, executive director, Jackson County Tourist Development Council. There are usually several hundred participants for each event, most of whom come from out of state. “We try to use local vendors as much as possible and we want to expand the facility amenities and add more annual events to the calendar. We’re always looking for ways to increase participation and the availability of activities and events, and to boost awareness of equestrian and rodeo sports for all ages,” she says. “Contact the Jackson County TDC to learn how to host your event for free at the Jackson County Agriculture Center.”
There’s lots of action in Kalispell, which hosts about 24 rodeo events each year. The two main venues are the Majestic Valley Arena and the Northwest Montana Fair and Event Center. The former is an indoor equestrian and event venue located on 140 acres, and the latter is an outdoor facility that sits on 50 acres. Both provide animal stalls/pens, locker room facilities medical facilities and concessions. Additional outdoor arenas in the area also host rodeos and other competitions.
A variety of rodeo events can be hosted in Kalispell, from men’s and women’s novice and pro competitions to high school and youth programs. Examples include the Montana High School Rodeo Finals, Northern Rodeo Association Championship, Kalispell PBR, Brash Winter Rodeo Series, NW Montana Fair & Rodeo, Elite Professional Bullriders Finals and Next Generation Bull Riders. Participants come from Montana, regional and other U.S. states and Canadian provinces, according to Diane Medler, executive director of Discover Kalispell, The Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Because we have a fantastic indoor equestrian facility along with several other outdoor arenas, we welcome inquiries to host events year-round,” says Medler. “We’re happy to offer assistance and services to event promoters.”
Lake County, Florida
Set in the heart of Florida’s horse country, Grand Oaks Resort in Weirsdale is the premier equine facility in the Lake County region. The 340-plus acre property has a covered arena, grass and international composite footing, riding and driving dressage arenas, 60-, 80- and 100-meter grass and fiber arenas, and international show jumping. Other amenities include stalls, food and beverage, housing, dormitories and an RV park.
Although equestrian events outnumber rodeo competitions here, the venue can accommodate a variety of rodeo disciplines other than rough stock. Rodeo events at Grand Oaks Resort include roping, barrel racing and other competitions.
Overall, “Thirty to 40 equine events are held each year, with plans to expand multiple disciplines including, but limited to, arena polo, cutting and sorting competitions,” says Tom Warriner, VP and managing partner of The Grand Oaks.
“On a yearly basis, we host approximately 5,000 horses and 25,000 competitors/support staff and spectators, and events hosted at the Grand Oaks Resort produce an estimated $3 million annually.”
Missouri State Fair, Sedalia, Missouri
For more than a century, the Missouri State Fair has played a vital role in Sedalia, a city that once served as an important railhead for massive cattle drives. Today, the destination is a magnet for rodeo participants and enthusiasts.
The Fairgrounds is a regular host to the National Federation of Professional Bullriders (NFPB) and the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association (MRCA). During the offseason, the venue partners with NFPB for an annual event in February, and since 2017 has hosted the federation’s national finals in December. The MRCA also returns in February.
Missouri State Fairgrounds has two rodeo-friendly venues. The Mathewson Exhibition Center indoor arena can seat about 3,200 spectators and is primarily used during winter. The outdoor State Fair Arena is used for the 11-day Fair in August as the base site of the rodeo and bull riding events and has permanent seating for 2,500. Also on offer are close to 400 covered permanent horse stalls, and open-air warm-up arenas, cattle barns, ample parking and other buildings that can be used for vendors, banquets and other needs.
“Our central location in the U.S. is a bonus for many event promoters,” says Courtney Fry, events manager for the Missouri State Fairgrounds. “We are within a comfortable drive to Kansas City, St. Louis, Land of the Ozarks and Columbia. The Fairgrounds has plenty of historic charm and is one of the oldest fairgrounds in the nation.” SDM