National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, WY

By Cary Estes on December 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Adkins

The National High School Finals Rodeo is coming to Rock Springs in 2012. And while this ain’t the first rodeo for the Sweetwater County, Wyoming, Events Complex, it’s definitely the largest.

More than 1,500 contestants from 41 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia will participate in the competition. The event is scheduled for July 15-21, 2012, but most competitors and support personnel will arrive in town nearly a week early in order to prepare. All told, approximately 6,000 people are expected to descend on Sweetwater County, creating an economic impact of more than $6 million for a community of approximately 25,000 residents.

“It’s a big deal, there’s no doubt about it,” says Larry Lloyd, executive director of the Sweetwater Events Complex. “This is the world’s largest rodeo. We’re going to have all those people filling up the hotel rooms and restaurants. It’s going to have a huge impact on us.”

A history with the sport

The Sweetwater Events Complex is no stranger to bringing the rodeo to town. The facility hosts  a variety of competitions every year, including barrel racing, horse shows and team roping.

The Red Desert Roundup Rodeo has been a summer staple since 1978, attracting stars from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. And now, the Mountain States Rodeo Circuit is scheduled to hold its annual finals in Sweetwater County through 2015, an event projected to have an annual economic impact of more than $1 million.

“We’re all rodeoed up. We understand everything it takes to put on these types of events,” Lloyd says. “We have the right sorting equipment and pens, we know how to get the arena set up. We have a strong can-do attitude when it comes to rodeos.”

Changes and expansion

Still, none of the past events at the Sweetwater Events Complex can match the size and scope of the National High School Finals. As a result, big changes are under way at the facility, particularly in the expansion of the number of horse stalls and campsites.

“We sit on about 450 acres and have quite a bit of infrastructure in place,” Lloyd says of the complex, which has a 1,500-seat arena, a 20,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 42,000-square-foot agricultural complex and parking for more than 1,000 vehicles. “But when you’re talking about 13 performances over seven days, we have to make some changes to accommodate that.

“They want about 100,000 square feet of trade-show flooring, new campsites, new restroom and shower facilities to accommodate folks who are traveling by trailer. We need 1,700 stalls and six performance arenas. It’s quite an undertaking. We have some significant upgrades to do, and we’re on a full-court press to get those done.”

It’s an investment that should pay off for quite some time. The NHSFR will return to Sweetwater County in 2013, and Rock Springs is now part of a three-city rotation in which each site hosts the finals for two consecutive years.

“It’s a family-friendly event, and we’re excited about having it.” Lloyd says. “We’re eager to get them here and show what we can do.”

Find more on rodeo in Rock Springs, WY.

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The fishing here is absolutely phenomenal. We’ve got lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, all sorts of fish. It is absolutely a fisherman’s paradise.

Dave Hanks, Executive Director, Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce