As the West's premier multi-event facility, Gillette's CAM-PLEX is no stranger to national and international conventions, regional competitions and local events.
"We host close to 400 events that draw about 350,000 people," Dan Barks, general manager, says of the 1,100-acre complex.
"The economic impact on the community of this facility is more than $18 million annually."
Both Airstream and American Coach RV Rallies will hold annual meetings at the facility this year, drawing close to 2,000 RVs and more than 3,000 people, while the North American Dog Agility trials in the spring and fall will culminate with the championship round slated in September. The facility's 35 employees take these and the many other concerts, banquets, trade shows, performances and equestrian events in stride.
National High School Finals Rodeo
But when it's time to host the event billed as "the world's largest rodeo" – the National High School Finals Rodeo – the community steps in to provide a Gillette welcome as big as the West. With more than 6,000 high school contestants and families from 41 states, Canada and Australia descending upon Gillette in periodic years for the coveted 10-day event, it takes months of coordination to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
"The National High School Finals Rodeo occupies the community and CAM-PLEX life for quite some time," Barks says. "Our staff devotes more than a year to get ready for this, and we work with about 900 volunteers. The community supports this very well."
"This is not our first rodeo," says Rex Brown, marketing manager. "We've held this rodeo more than any other community has ever held it, and this is our eighth round."
Fortunately, the commitment for this competitive event is for two years at each location, so the CAM-PLEX will host the championship beginning the third week in July 2010 and 2011.
"In addition to the people who come here, we also have to house more than 1,700 horses on 60 acres of horse stalls and 1,200 RVs on up to 180 acres of our RV park grounds," Barks says. "About 833 hotel rooms are booked by the people who don't have RVs. Most people stay about eight days. This one event brings in more than $5 million in economic impact to Gillette."
Many More Events
One indoor and three outdoor arenas serve as venues for the 1,500 competitors as they participate in rodeo competitions, a beauty pageant, volleyball tournament, a scholarship fundraising auction and nightly evening dances. Ten concessionaires provide food, and a major trade show in the Wyoming Center features all types of western attire, saddles, ropes, jewelry and gifts. The 122,000-square-foot Wyoming Center recently celebrated its first anniversary, and has been in constant use. Barks says that although no capital expansion projects are on the board at the current time, he and his staff will be busier than ever.
"We have seven separate indoor buildings with 400,000 square feet of space, and many times we'll have five or six events going on daily," he says. "Our focus is to keep the facilities we have booked and busy."