CNFR’s future in Casper rocky

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The College National Finals Rodeo has been hosted in Casper since 1999.

The 2019 CNFR saw 25,679 tickets sold, the second highest number of sales since the rodeo has been in town.

Despite this, some think more needs to be done if the rodeo is to be kept in Casper for years to come.

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The contract with the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association to host the rodeo at the Casper Events Center expires in 2022.

That gives organizers and community leaders who’d like to keep it in Casper just two more years to make the case to NIRA’s board that the contract should be renewed.

“We really need to knock it out of the woods the next two years to make sure it stays here,” Casper Events Center Manager General Manager Brad Murphy said on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Murphy is also a member of the Natrona County Travel & Tourism Council who were discussing the topic at their Tuesday meeting.

Visit Casper, which is overseen by the Council, contributed $10,000 toward a group ticket sales effort to drive up rodeo attendance. They also asked for and received $10,000 contributions from the City of Casper, Natrona County and the Economic Joint Development Powers Board to fund this effort.

“We did not see success on that at all,” Visit Casper CEO Brook Kaufman said.

Because the group ticket sales position was to be paid a commission based on the number of tickets sold, some of that $40,000 remains.

Kaufman said in her September CEO report that this money could potentially be reallocated toward different efforts.

Some council members were unsure what the value of that would be.

“Why throw another $40,000 at it when nothing is going to be different?” Treasurer Tiffany Gamble asked.

Murphy said that he thought doing a better job of marketing to people in Casper rather than around the state could pay off.

“We need to get the local people more involved with this event,” he said.

Kevin Hawley said that renewing past “Parade of Athletes” events surrounding the CNFR might be one way to get more Casperites interested.

He and Casper City Councilman Steve Freel both pointed to a need for vision from the event’s organizers.

Whatever can be done, most on the council agreed it would require input and vision from multiple partners, particularly the CNFR Board of Directors.

“There isn’t just one agency that can heroically lift this,” Kaufman said.

Renee Penton-Jones said she would be willing to approach the CNFR board about changing their messaging strategy.

Whether that board could be convinced to modify their approach to organizing the rodeo was a point of doubt for some members of the tourism council.

More information about the economic impact of having the CNFR in Casper is available in this article.

This article talks about bull rider Bradie Gray, who attended the 2019 rodeo after being trampled by a bull in the 2017 CNFR.

Casper bullfighter Wyatt Mason provided “cowboy protection” at this year’s rodeo. More about that is available in this article.

Photos of the 2019 CNFR are available here.