By: Bobby Mote
As I look back over this year, I am surprised at all that has taken place. It really feels like three years and I’m sure most of you share that same feeling.
We closed 2019 by announcing the Triple Crown of Rodeo – a $1 million cash bonus paid out to any athlete who wins three WCRA Major Rodeos in a row. This was also coupled with the announcement of an extension of our partnership with the Days of ’47 Rodeo & Cowboy Games. That’s pretty awesome I think.
We kicked off 2020 with the Segment 4 Winter Timed Event Semi-Finals, held in January at the Lazy E. It paid out $394,000 and qualified timed event athletes to The Royal City Roundup in Kansas City. We ran it like a slack in the middle of the week so that everyone entered could work all the other rodeos going on at the same time.
Then on February 1, we went to Salt Lake City with our partners at Days of ‘47 and held the Lewis Field Bulls and Broncs, which served as the riding events Semi-Finals for the Royal City Roundup. This great event paid out $170,000. Although, one of my good friends Jessy Davis nearly lost his life on the dirt that night – when a bareback horse fell on his side and split Jessy’s liver. He spent months in the hospital and last month he had one, hopefully last, surgery to repair the damage. WCRA devoted a day of all nominations to his medical fund – you all really came through and nominated, helping to raise over $16,400.
What happed to Jessy reminded me why I have been determined to do my part to improve rodeo. It’s dangerous. Every time you nod your head it could be the last, no matter how good you may or may not be at what you do, there is so much out of your control. Every time you load up and drive to another event, it is continued wear and tear on your body, your animals and the family you leave at home. So, I asked, why couldn’t we have more opportunities without putting it “all on the line” any more than we have to? Why do so many have to “pay their dues” and rodeo for years just to make their name known? Why when I finally make it to a big event is “luck of the draw” still a factor? I figured I could complain… Or I can do something to make a difference. To date, the WCRA has paid out over $8,500,000 to rodeo athletes and plans to do much more than that.
Back to 2020… On February 28 in Kansas City, WCRA paid out more than $1 million in 2.5 hours to those athletes who qualified from whatever rodeos or jackpots which fit their schedules. That same night the CEO’s from WCRA and PBR announced to the world that we were going to host the biggest women’s rodeo ever (more on that later). The following day on February 29 the CBS broadcast was seen by a near 1 million viewers.
The momentum from the first quarter of 2020 was tremendous and we were rolling to the Stampede at the E where we planned to pay out over $1,500,000 in May and then…COVID-19 happened and the world stopped. No rodeos or jackpots and the realities that we all knew and were accustomed to changed by the hour. It became clear that there was no certainty that we would be able produce the May event. So, we refunded every nomination from the Stampede at The E segment.
July still brought more uncertainty and Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo was canceled. The Puget Sound Showdown in Tacoma, WA scheduled for late August also went by the wayside. Frustration was beginning to set in. But so was our desire to find a way to stop the trend and do our part to get rodeo athletes back to work.
The Lazy E arena is privately owned and operated. We had some confidence that by late summer we could have a rodeo – even without fans if we had to. So, with our partners at the PBR, we planned the Stampede at the E for the third week in August to replace the Tacoma event. We were able to pay out over $400,000 to rodeo athletes at a time when there were very few big payout events.
The Women’s Rodeo World Championship was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas the first week in November paired with the PBR World Finals, but once again, COVID changed our plans. So we moved back a week on the calendar and moved the event to Texas. We held all but the final round in the historic Will Rogers Coliseum in Ft Worth. The top six from each discipline competed in the championship round held in AT&T Stadium alongside the PBR World Finals. We paid out nearly $750,000 and have now started what we believe is a great event with tons of potential for growth. We are already in planning mode for the 2021 WRWC event.
At the root of all we are doing, we are working to get more people involved in rodeo and make it more sustainable. More people fighting for bigger pieces of a shrinking pie will not create growth. The solution is to grow the size of the pie, which I believe we are doing.
2020 threw a lot of challenges our way. But, it wasn’t all bad. A saying we like to use is: “We like doing business with people who want to business with us.”
Late Summer, Rodeo Corpus Christi came to us with the hopes of growing their visibility and raising their payout to rodeo athletes. Several conversations later, it was decided the May 2021 Rodeo Corpus Christi will be a WCRA event. The 2021 event will include an increased prize money payout and go from $180,000 to $545,000 with no entry fees! The top 64 in timed events and the top 30 in the riding events will have a chance to run and ride for great money simply by nominating a few rodeo’s or jackpots. The final round will count towards the Triple Crown of Rodeo $1 Million bonus and be aired on a CBS Sports broadcast. Much like the end of 2019, the Rodeo Corpus Christi gives us some momentum heading into the new year.
Our company has grown to 17 employees who have all come on board because they liked what we were doing and wanted to join in. Additionally, we have moved all the tech development in house with our sister company, Rodeo Logistics, who now has 20 full time developers and coders. They are actively working on everything from the Rodeo Entry Tool (RET) to OpenStalls.com (OS) which is an online stall reservation service that we launched this year.
As you can see, we have a lot of “irons in the fire” and a lot of great people who work every day to make rodeo better. I’d like to thank everyone who has been given us a try, we hope you had a good experience and if you didn’t… I’d like to know how we can do a better job.
While the COVID related challenges of 2020 have already seeped into 2021 like a bad hangover, we are confident that rodeo will get back on a solid foundation soon. We’re excited about the future and looking forward to seeing all of you 2021!