This ain’t Springfield’s first rodeo. But it may be the biggest.
On Sept. 16–18, Professional Bull Riders Inc. is bringing its elite series bull-riding event to Missouri State University’s JQH Arena for the third straight year.
Forty of the world’s top ranked bull riders are coming to town to compete in PBR’s Ford Built Tough Series on the way to the World Finals in Las Vegas Oct. 26–30. The series began Jan. 7 in Madison Square Garden and features 29 events, including the stop in Springfield, dubbed the PFIWestern.com Invitational presented by Bass Pro Shops.
PFI Western Wear Store owner Randy Little said talks with former PBR President Randy Bernard, whom Little described as a friend, led PBR to bring its big show to Springfield after the completion of JQH Arena in 2009. Hammons Student Center hosted an event for the Touring Pro Division, or “Challenger” series, for a handful of years, Little said.
Little said it costs PBR more than $500,000 to bring the elite series to Springfield, and PFI splits the costs as a title sponsor.
For Little, the nationally televised event is about much more than money – he wants it to be a source of pride for the community.
“It’s not about PFI. It’s not about Bass Pro. This is about what we can do for the community to bring another big event into this town,” Little said. “This is not another rodeo. This is PBR. This is an extreme sport.”
Little said the community support for the three-day invitational has been tremendous, and it needs to be if Springfield is to continue to bring the professional series to town. He said much is being done to promote the event in order to keep it coming back, including the creation of 3.8 million promotional cans.
According to promotional trends site PRweb.com
, Pepsi has produced a special-edition Orange Crush can featuring Missouri’s own bull rider Luke Snyder and PFI’s bull Boot Daddy. The collectable cans are available at retail locations in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, and the cans can be used to secure a $5 ticket discount for the event.
“There are big cities that want our dates. I actually chair the Rider Relief Fund, the fund for injured bull riders, and I hear the rumblings because there’s only 30 stops,” Little said, adding that municipalities have been known to donate to the relief fund while making their case to host the PBR event. “We need to make this a bigger deal to make sure that it keeps coming back to Springfield.”
PBR CEO Jim Haworth said the Pueblo, Colo.-based organization has an attendance goal of 8,500 per day, and he said this year’s event is on pace to surpass those expectations with nearly 10,000 seats available in JQH Arena. In 2009, its inaugural year, the then-two day event sold 15,000. Last year, the invitational took on a third day and drew roughly 25,000 fans.
Little has a bull in the series named Boot Daddy, and he said Andy’s Frozen Custard, a local sponsor, has created a Boot Daddy concrete to help promote the event.
Ticket prices for general admission range from $10 to $80, with VIP seats going for up to $500, according to MissouriStateTix.com
Susan Wade, public relations manager with the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, said it is hard to gauge how this event could impact the local economy, but it is sure to offer a boost.
She said those attending conventions spend an average of $125 per day while in town.
“I think that you just intuitively know when you have an event that however-many thousands are attending that they are not all from Springfield. Some of those are visitors, and they’re bringing their dollars with them,” Wade said, adding the TV exposure would be huge.
PBR’s Haworth, a Missouri native, said Springfield provides a central location for its fans.
“If you look at Springfield, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Dallas … that whole Midwest area is a large percentage of our fan base. Springfield is a great market for us,” Haworth said. “If you look at it versus a St. Louis or Chicago, it’s a little bit smaller market, but we know we have so many fans there. That’s why we’ve gone after Springfield.”
He said Springfield has met all of its expectations since 2009, which was why it became a three-day invitational last year. The tour will be aired on Versus starting at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 and 7 p.m. Sept. 18.
While Haworth expects to return to Springfield next year, he said the 2012 event schedule won’t be officially set until October.[[In-content Ad]]