Campbell County has earned a reputation as one of the top destinations in the U.S. for sporting events, and it’s easy to see why. The area includes the CAM-PLEX facility, which hosts the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in 2016, as well as the Campbell County Recreation Center and the Energy Capital Sports Complex. In addition, the county has plenty of restaurants, accommodations and attractions to keep visitors comfortable and entertained during their stay, and those visitors are positively contributing to the local tourism industry.
“The events we bring in have a huge economic impact on the community’s restaurants and retailers, as well as our hotel industry,” says Terry Sjolin, destination marketing organization sales manager for the Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
CAM-PLEX Hosts World’s Largest Rodeo
Located in Gillette, CAM-PLEX is a multi-event facility that includes seven separate indoor buildings covering 400,000 square feet, as well as a 21-acre park and picnic area, rodeo grounds, a racetrack and more than 1,500 RV sites.
Throughout the year, CAM-PLEX attracts crowds with live events like musicals, comedy acts and magic shows, but one of its biggest events is the NHSFR, which the facility has hosted nine times in the past and again in July 2016. The NHSFR, known as the world’s largest rodeo, will draw 1,500 contestants from 41 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia. In total, the rodeo is expected to bring 6,000 people to Campbell County and have a more than $10 million impact on the community.
“The CAM-PLEX is an unbelievable facility,” says Austin White, vice president of marketing for the National High School Rodeo Association, the organization that produces the NHSFR. “It’s the best-equipped facility in the country to house the NHSFR. Plus, it takes a lot of acreage to put on our event due to the volume of horse trailers and campers people bring, and the CAM-PLEX has more than enough water, sewer and electric hook-ups.”
According to White, the NHSFR wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, and Campbell County residents are always eager to help out. More than 600 people volunteer their time to assist with horse, contestant and RV check-in; ticketing and gate security; managing the lost-and-found and information center; and helping commercial vendors before and after trade shows.
“The people in Campbell County love to help with this rodeo,” White says. “We’ve never had an issue getting enough volunteers, and the CAM-PLEX staff handles assigning jobs to all the volunteers. We get tremendous community support, and I think it’s because they’re proud to say they help put on the world’s largest rodeo.”
Recreation Center, Sports Complex Draw Competitors
The Campbell County Recreation Center, a state-of-the-art, 190,000-square-foot facility in Gillette, also attracts competitors and spectators to the sporting events it hosts. Its 81,000-square-foot field house includes five indoor tennis courts; a six-lane, 200-meter track; and enough seating to accommodate approximately 1,000 spectators.
“We’ve hosted Division I track meets with the University of Wyoming, Montana State University and Colorado State University in recent years,” says Dave McCormick, executive director of Campbell County Parks & Recreation. “We’ve also hosted Division II track meets, including invitational events with as many as six different teams.”
Gillette’s Energy Capital Sports Complex, which opened in June 2015, is becoming a favorite destination for the region’s softball players. The complex has four fastpitch softball fields with synthetic turf, as well as covered dugouts and protected spectator seating. Each field has lights for night games, and four batting cages are available for warmups. In addition to holding the Gillette Girls Fastpitch Association’s games, the complex hosts statewide softball tournaments.
“The Energy Capital Sports Complex is incredible,” Sjolin says. “There are actually teams on the complex’s waiting list. Everyone gets really excited about playing out there on the turf.”
In the future, the complex will likely include additional amenities such as soccer fields, a water park and baseball fields, all expected to draw newcomers and serve the community’s tourism industry.