30 years “pro,” Steamboat rodeo still evolving
June 14, 2017
Change comes every summer for the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo series. A few years ago it was the chute system and arena fencing at the Romick Rodeo Arena in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Another year it was the sound system, and this year, a new scoreboard is on tap for the arena — home to more than 20 nights of rodeo this summer.
It was 30 summers ago that rodeo in Steamboat endured a more significant change, however.
Prior to the summer of 1988, there was no Steamboat Springs "Pro" Rodeo series. There were jackpot rodeos where amateur cowboys and cowgirls competed once, sometimes twice a week for money that came solely from their entry fees.
Two "pro" rodeos were introduced that season, and they were such a hit all the rodeos the next summer were of the pro variety, with competitors and stock sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
"In hockey, there's NHL in Denver. There's AAA in Loveland, and the Wranglers here in Steamboat," said John Shipley, a rodeo board member and public address announcer for the series. "PRCA, it's the big deal, the NHL."
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Pro competitors will take to the Steamboat dirt for the 30th summer starting on Friday, the first of 10 two-show rodeos that stretch into August.
The rodeo will ride starting at 7:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night through Aug. 12. That's nine weekends, the series ending a week earlier than it typically has. The schedule makes up its 10th two-day event over the Fourth of July, however, with a performance July 3 and July 4.
"We're extremely excited," board member Brent Romick said.
Tickets for the rodeo are available at the gate or in town at F.M. Light & Sons, Gondola General, Steamboat Central Reservations and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. They're also available online at http://www.SteamboatProRodeo.com for $20 for adults and $10 for children.
The biggest change this summer will be that scoreboard, though fans won't see it immediately. Romick said the concession stand and barbecue are ready to go. The chutes are in good, working order, and staff was meeting this week to check out the sound system before Friday night.
To maintain its warranty, however, the $50,000 scoreboard must be installed by a professional sign-installing company, and that won't be able to happen before this weekend's season-opening performances.
It replaces a scoreboard that predated Steamboat's stint as a pro rodeo and has long been older than most of the cowboys looking to it for scores. It won't be radically different. It will have more information, but no video at this point. Romick said a board with video capabilities would cost five times what the new one did.
"It's a lot more functional than that old scoreboard," Romick said.
Maybe someday, he said. Maybe even next year — at least for a rental for the biggest performances.
For now, though, it's another small upgrade 30 years after Steamboat made a big one.