GILLETTE — The National High School Rodeo Association has shown some interest in a Cam-plex proposal that the Gillette facility host the National High School Finals Rodeo more often than just two out of every six years as it does now, said Paul Foster, Cam-plex general manager.
On the heels of the 2016 NHSFR in Gillette July 17-23, the association’s board met at Cam-plex on Sunday, where Foster presented a letter proposing the complex become the permanent or longer-term home for the world’s largest rodeo. Gillette also will host the rodeo in 2017.
While the board wasn’t warm to the idea of locking in the rodeo to a permanent home, it did invite Cam-plex to submit two bids for hosting the rodeo beginning in 2020, Foster said.
The first bid would be to maintain the status quo, where Cam-plex would host the rodeo for two years and then it would move to two other locations for two years each. In the time the NHSFR is not in Gillette, Foster said Cam-plex could bid to host the National Junior High Finals Rodeo instead.
The second bid would be to host the rodeo for five years straight with a review after three years and an option to renew, he said.
“Basically, we’d do it for five years, and we’re discussing how to do that and possibly put something in there for renewal,” he said. “That would be in our mind, because we could make it worth their time … and could just have it ongoing.”
While open to considering other than the current rotation of host cities, the NHSRA board doesn’t want to get locked into a long-term deal, said Dixie Huxtable, a Douglas resident who represents Wyoming on the organization’s board and is a member of its executive committee.
Although she wouldn’t discuss exactly what the board talked about, she said the potential for choosing a different venue in a more centralized location needs to be protected, should such a facility become available.
“What was discussed was whether or not the board would consider a long-term contract,” she said. “The majority of the board was concerned with a long-term contract that was 10 years or more.”
She said the bidding options Foster described would be accepted from other locations as well, like Rock Springs, which hosted the NHSFR the past four years and will do so again in 2018-19.
That community’s officials have already said they won’t let the rodeo go without a fight.
“We plan on keeping it here in Rock Springs on a rotating basis,” said Larry Lloyd, executive director of the Sweetwater Events Complex, in an article in the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner earlier this month. “We will have it back in two years and we have already put in to have it back two years after that — 2022 and 2023.”
Although Foster said Cam-plex doesn’t want to cultivate ill will between communities bidding for the NHSFR, he said it would be irresponsible to not present the idea of hosting the rodeo longer term.
“This is what Cam-plex was built for and we’d be crazy not to want them here,” he said, adding that the 2016 rodeo, Gillette’s 10th, was successful.
“The feedback’s been excellent,” he said. “I’m still receiving a lot of feedback. We’re pleased with how well it went. Everybody pitches in and does their part. … I love how it went, and the community was really painted in a good light.”
Huxtable agreed that this year’s event went well, but said that won’t have an impact on the board’s final decision on new location bids, which is expected to come when it meets again in January.
“In general, they were supportive of a longer term, but we want to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges,” she said. “They will invite people putting in a bid to come to our mid-winter meeting in January.”
In general, however, she said board members seemed receptive to awarding the NHSFR for longer stints than two years at a time.
“The idea was met positively, but cautiously,” she said, adding that if the association were to consider five-year bids, Rock Springs also would likely bid for that term rather than lose out on being an NHSFR host.
“Personally, I would love it being here in Wyoming,” she said. “ But we also have to consider those people who make the trip from Florida to Wyoming every year. That’s a heck of a trip. If there is a facility in between that is built in the next five or 10 years, we (don’t want to) exclude that because we’re locked in long-term in one facility.”
Overall, Foster said he’s encouraged by the offer to submit a five-year bid and that it shows the association is open to being at Cam-plex more often in the future.
“I think they’re responsive,” he said. “They are cautious, though, because they’re saying something permanent is more than they want. But we can make it more appealing for them to be here.”
He also said Cam-plex is fine competing against other facilities to host the rodeo.
“We don’t know if (the board) told Rock Springs the same thing, but certainly if our competition is Rock Springs, then we can definitely compete with them,” he said.
By Greg Johnson
News Record Managing Editor