The world’s largest indoor rodeo facility, the Lazy E Arena, is located less than 10 miles northeast of Edmond, Oklahoma. That fact alone would have been reason enough for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association to relocate its premier event — the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals — from the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, Colorado, to the Lazy E.
But there’s much more to the Lazy E than a main arena floor that measures 440 by 160 feet. In addition to the arena, with seating for more than 7,200 spectators, the 900-acre site offers 584 permanent 10-by-10-foot stalls, almost 450 RV spots, 10 acres of paved and lighted parking, and 20 acres of rolling terrain for outdoor events.
The NLB Rodeo Finals, slated for July 5-10, will feature 31 events in three age divisions for contestants between 5 and 18 years old. Winners collectively will receive $80,000 in college scholarship money, which is part of a $300,000 package in cash and prizes — making this the richest youth rodeo in the United States.
The NLB Rodeo Finals will be nationally televised on RFD-TV, a cable and satellite channel dedicated to rural issues, concerns and interests available in more than 60 million homes. Additionally, the Wrangler Network will stream the rodeo live.
The Rodeo Finals closed out an 11-year run in Pueblo in 2015. Since 2004, the event has doubled in size to almost 1,000 contestants and simply outgrew its former facility.
“We decided that the fairest thing to do was go to the premier equestrian facility in the country,” says Robert Howell, a member of the NLBRA’s executive board, which was instrumental in securing the Lazy E for the NLB Rodeo Finals. “When Lazy E made the proposal to do just that, it was a no-brainer for us. The kids will go and compete in a world-class facility and see what it will be like when they make it to the big time.”
The Lazy E Arena will provide the opportunity for three arenas to run simultaneous events in a climate-controlled facility — a first in NLB Rodeo Finals history — and offer all contestants the same playing field, regardless of the weather.
“It’s a good deal for everyone,” says Dan Wall, general manager of the Lazy E Arena, adding that he expects 5,000 newcomers between contestants and their families to spend about a week in the Edmond area; ultimately, as many as 50,000 people could occupy the Lazy E grounds during the course of the event.
“The economic impact for Edmond and the entire state of Oklahoma is substantial,” adds Wall. “A conservative estimate is $20.7 million, with an upper end of $32 million. Hosting any national finals at a facility is a ‘great get,’ and by far, the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals is the crown jewel for us. Once we knew we could facilitate their needs, they became our primary goal.”
‘Everything About the Place Is Friendly’
The NLB Rodeo Finals, which will be held at the Lazy E Arena for the next five years, begins a new chapter in the facility’s history, which dates back to 1984 when it first hosted the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Steer Roping Finals.
Located in a park-like setting of trees, water and rolling hills with an official mailing address in nearby Guthrie, the Lazy E Arena today hosts rodeos, equestrian and livestock shows, as well as other events throughout the year. Originally owned by the Gaylord Entertainment Co., the facility was purchased in 2013 by the McKinney Family from Midland, Texas, with the intent of making the Lazy E Arena a leading national destination spot for western entertainment.
The facility’s current owners have reinvested in nearly every element of the facility in an effort to attract high-profile, high-end events such as the NLB Rodeo Finals. In March, the Lazy E hosted the Cinch Timed Event Championship of the World, featuring 20 adult contestants. Of those, about one-quarter were former NLB Rodeo Finals contestants, Howell says.
NLBRA has franchises in 30 states, including one in Oklahoma that is growing in new members at a rate of three to five per week, according to Howell. By relocating the NLB Rodeo Finals to a more central location, he says the association will significantly expand its presence outside of the NLBRA’s core Western states of Colorado, South Dakota and Utah.
“That played a role in why we chose to move to Oklahoma and specifically the Lazy E,” says Howell, who has attended multiple events at Lazy E in the past. “Plus, anything produced at Lazy E is not going to disappoint. You know it’s going to be an absolutely amazing event. Everything about the place is friendly and safe, too. We’ve never been there when we didn’t feel like it was home to us. Within 20 minutes of a conversation with somebody there, you feel like you’ve known that person all your life.”
“We have a diverse staff that lives and breathes western events every day,” Wall says. “It’s what we do when we’re not at work, too.”
Then there’s the mystique of Lazy E’s history. “Some of the National Little Britches kids know the best of the best in rodeo have competed on the same ground they’re going to compete on,” Wall says.
You don’t need to tell that to 16-year-old Lindsie Perkins from Panguitch, Utah, who has been a member of NLBRA for 10 years. “The move is going to be the best opportunity for this association to grow,” she says. “We have the ability now to make it even bigger than it already is.”
“Lazy E is expanding as
rapidly as we’re growing,” Howell adds. “Moving our finals from Pueblo into a world-class facility will improve our credibility and our overall association tenfold.”
A Little Bit About Edmond
With nearly 1,000 hotel rooms available at any given time in the Edmond area — and a hotel and conference center scheduled to open in 2017 — there is no shortage of places to stay for people not setting up camp at the Lazy E. And Oklahoma City, which is adjacent to Edmond from the south, offers 14,000 additional hotel rooms.
More than 200 restaurants are ready to serve hungry travelers, a quaint and historic downtown area features eclectic shopping options, and the 40-acre Frontier City theme park offers rides and shows. Of particular interest to Lazy E Arena visitors will be the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and Silverleaf Shotgun Sports, which offers numerous target-shooting opportunities. And don’t forget Pops — a 66-foot-tall neon and steel soda bottle sculpture that is among Route 66’s newest attractions and sells 500 flavors of soda pop.
“This is a family sports community, regardless of the sport,” says Cathy Williams-White, an Edmond tourism official.
Beyond Little Britches
Wall arrived at the Lazy E Arena as general manager three years ago and oversaw all of the recent changes. Not only is it the new home of the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals and the Cinch Timed Event Championship of the World, but it also hosts approximately 30 leased events annually.
Additionally, the Lazy E Ranch and Training Center offers an American Quarter Horse training racetrack, and it is recognized as one of the top Quarter Horse breeding operations in the country. In 2016, the Lazy E Ranch will breed approximately 1,200 mares and foal out more than 200 mares, according to the ranch’s website. The ranch also prepares between 450 and 500 head of sale horses each year and represents them at various sales throughout the United States.
Back at the Lazy E Arena, the facility’s exposure continues to increase, as it welcomes concerts, conventions, wedding receptions, bicycle and motocross races, trade shows and other events — in addition to western entertainment.
“The Lazy E is one of the biggest driving forces in Edmond’s economy,” Williams-White says. “The western athletes, families and fans are some of the best in the sports business. We’re proud to welcome the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo to Edmond, the Lazy E and Oklahoma for 2016 and years to come.”