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Volume 24 No. 156

Events and Attractions

When Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones first entertained the idea of hosting a rodeo at his new stadium, he had one condition. “He was interested,” said Rural Media Group CEO Randy Bernard, who first talked about the idea with Jones several years ago. “But he said it would have to be the biggest and the best.” The result: AT&T Stadium on March 2 will host what is being billed as the richest-ever one-day rodeo, with $2M in prize money being offered to the winners of seven rodeo events. Bernard and Cowboys COO & Exec VP Stephen Jones are officially announcing the rodeo, called The American, today during a 12:30pm ET press conference at the stadium in Arlington. Organizers will invite the 10 highest-ranked competitors in each event and also will hold five qualifying rodeos open to anyone who wants to compete. The top qualifiers will meet in a semifinal in Mesquite, Texas, on Feb. 21-23 to determine which five will gain entry to each event in The American. The rodeo will be broadcast by Rural Media Group’s RFD-TV, FamilyNet and Rural TV, which reach a combined 63 million homes.

TIMING FINALLY RIGHT: Bernard said he created the concept of The American after that initial meeting with Jerry Jones, but “the timing was never right.” But Bernard, the former CEO of both IndyCar and the PBR, said that when he joined Rural Media Group late last year, the rodeo idea “fit well with our overall objectives of creating headline events that make a difference for rural America and western sports.” Bernard added, “This one-day event will pay more than what most professional cowboys can make in an entire year on the circuit. This has the potential of being the biggest thing I have ever been a part of. This has the potential for changing the sport, and guess who benefits? The contestants, the sponsors and the fans. If we do it right, so does RFD-TV.” Stephen Jones in a statement said, “Since we opened the doors in 2009, this stadium has been host to hard-fought battles between some of the toughest athletes in the nation. It’s only fitting The American rodeo continue the legacy of entertainment and culture in what we believe is one of the nation’s premier sports venues.”

RFD UNDERWRITING EVENT: RFD-TV is underwriting the entire rodeo, including the prize money, said Bernard. Each event will pay out $100,000 to the winner and $25,000 to the runner-up. In addition, $1M is set aside to be awarded to any qualifiers who win events. That means there is the potential for all of that money to go to one qualifier. There also is the potential that no qualifiers will win events. Bernard said he did not think that was likely, noting five of the 15 competitors in each event will be eligible for the “qualifier pot.” Bernard: “The chances are very likely that one will win. We are not thinking that there will be any money not paid.”

SEPARATE SPONSORS FROM STADIUM: Bernard said The American will have its own sponsors, separate from the stadium, the Cowboys and the other organizations involved in the rodeo. The rodeo disciplines that will be showcased in The American are endorsed by the various series that govern those events, including the PBR, Pro Roughstock Series, U.S. Team Roping Championships, Better Barrel Racers and the Ultimate Calf Roping Series. However, no points will be earned toward championships in those series. The American also will combine with the PBR to make a full weekend of rodeo in Arlington. The PBR’s annual visit to AT&T Stadium will be the night before The American, on March 1. PBR Chair & CEO Jim Haworth, who was scheduled to be part of the event announcement today, said in a statement, “The PBR is especially excited to be involved in The American rodeo. Our PBR bull riders will have two opportunities to showcase their talent and will do so in the most famous cowboy arena, AT&T Stadium.” Tickets to both events go on sale Sept. 16 through Ticketmaster and at the AT&T Stadium box office.

The USA Pro Challenge "is losing" $2M-3M per year, but is "still on track for a five-year plan to profitability," according to Jason Blevins of the DENVER POST. Event CEO & co-Chair Shawn Hunter said that the three-year-old race, which concludes Sunday, "would be profitable two years earlier than planned" if "struggling Boise wind energy company Exergy Development Group had not failed to make $2.5 million in contractual sponsorship payments" to the event last fall. He added that USA Pro Challenge Founder & Owner Rick Schaden "is happy" with the event, and the race's profitability "could arrive sooner if he is able to secure a title sponsor 'that fits with Colorado and fits with the sport.'" Hunter: "If this race were funded by the public we would not be sitting here today" (, 8/21). Hunter yesterday said that the Colorado event "was guaranteed" through '15. VELO NEWS' Neal Rogers noted the seven-stage race is "believed to cost" approximately $10M per year to run. Hunter: "As I’ve said before, we are a not-for-profit for our first five years. Selling sponsorship and international TV rights are our biggest revenue streams, and these take time. Something like this takes patience and a unique financial commitment, and fortunately we have that from the Schaden family." He added of the path to profitability, "This is similar to what we did with the Tour of California, which is now in its eighth year." One thing that "sets the USA Pro Challenge apart from other events is that it owns its own framework -- the start- and finish-line gantries, announcing stages, signage, and festival infrastructure." That "meant a significant initial investment in capital expenditures." But Hunter said that he has "been able to amortize that expense over many years." Hunter: "We continue to grow the top line, we’ve stabilized expenses, and we continue to add sponsors -- we added $1.4 million in new sponsorship year over year from 2012 to 2013." He said that the format of using host cities as both finishes and starts the following day "seems to be popular with riders, fans, and the host cities themselves" (, 8/21).

IS RACE BENEFICIAL FOR ASPEN? Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said that to "understand the benefit of the race, one has to take the long view." He added that economic benefits "may not be felt on race day." The "payback comes years down the road." Skadron: "The idea behind the race wasn’t necessarily searching for a one day bump in sales. It’s really about the long term impact that an international marketing event like this one, can have on our town" (, 8/20).