Pro rodeo needs high attendance shows that are cash cows for high-profile competitors to raise its profile and RodeoHouston sets a great example of how to do it.
For starters, when a fan arrives on the rodeo grounds and enters a large complex called the NRG Center, there’s a large colorful display of competitors’ facial shots. They represent credentialed athletes who competed for $1,748,000 in a main competition called the Super Series, which used a tournament format to determine champions. Each event winner received $50,000, plus earnings from the preliminaries.
“It’s a great rodeo and it gives guys a lot of chances to win,” said 23-time world champion Trevor Brazile, a Decatur roper who reached the semifinal. “The Super Series keeps fans engaged. It’s an exciting format.”
RodeoHouston thrives on using a name entertainer such as country star Keith Urban to draw an abundance of fans to the event. A single performance can draw more than 75,000. In addition to giving competitors great exposure, rodeo organizers also are very sensitive to their personal needs. For example, competitors are insured. Play areas are provided for their children and the athletes dine in a well-stocked hospitality area.
“RodeoHouston treats you with hospitality and provides whatever you need,” said four-time world champion Kaycee Field, who won the Super Series bareback riding title with a finals score of 90 and earned $56,750. “They have great food and do lots of little things for you that add up. When you go sign autographs for fans, they give you $100. They appreciate us being here and they understand what we bring to the rodeo.”
Joe Bruce Hancock, the Houston Rodeo’s general manager, said organizers highly respect competitors.
“We treat the cowboys as top-notch athletes,” Hancock said. “We don’t charge them entry fees (to help swell the purse) and we want to treat them like any other sport would when they arrive.”
Chief operating officer Dan Cheney said: “We look at rodeo athletes as entertainers. We’re putting on a sporting event that’s entertaining. We treat all of our entertainers, whether they’re rodeo athletes or musical artists, in the best way. We want them to have the best environment to showcase their talents.”
Tyson Durfey of Weatherford clinched the Super Series tie-down roping title on Saturday and earned $55,750. Clay Tryan of Lipan and his partner Jade Corkill won the team roping title and each pocketed $55,000. Other champions were saddle bronc rider Clay Elliott ($55,500), steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge ($56,750), barrel racer Mary Burger ($54,750) and bull rider Sage Kimzey ($56,000).
Organizers also conducted a single-performance rodeo on Sunday, called a Super Shootout. The purse was $250,000 and each event winner earned $25,000. Kaufman cowboy Aaron Pass won the bull riding title. Other winners were bareback rider Austin Foss, saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer, steer wrestler Nick Guy and barrel racer Lisa Lockhart.
The Elite Rodeo Athletes, a pro tour that features high profile riders such as Trevor Brazile and Kaycee Feild, will began its inaugural season with a tour stop this weekend in Redmond, Ore. The tour will consist of eight regular season shows. It will conclude with a $3 million finals show on Nov. 9-13 at Dallas’ American Airlines Center.
The National Cutting Horse Association Super Stakes begins its 23-day run Friday at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. The show concludes on April 16 with the 4-year-old open division finals, which is the second jewel of the sport’s Triple Crown Series.
On the Professional Bull Riders’ circuit, Mason Lowe won last weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series tour stop in Albuquerque. Defending world champion J.B. Mauney finished fourth and took the lead in the 2016 world standings.