The American Royal is moving forward in the sport of rodeo by reaching back to its tradition.
The Kansas City celebration is a not-for-profit, community volunteer-based service organization that raises funds to fulfill its vision and mission through endowments, contributions, sponsorships and event revenues. For decades, it’s been a hot spot for all the top contestants in ProRodeo.
For the longest time, the American Royal was one of the last big events in the rodeo season, but a few years ago the PRCA made the Sept. 30 the final day of the regular season. That made the importance of the annual October rodeo in Kansas City virtually obsolete.
For the last three years, the American Royal has hosted a championship, the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo. The contestants who qualified out of the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region were tickled. There was a real championship feel to the event, something contestants said had been missing.
But the American Royal folks had been getting plenty of feedback from its constituents, who wanted to see all the best players in ProRodeo, not just the top regional athletes. When the contract with the Prairie Circuit expired, so did the finale at Kemper Arena.
In its place will be the first Wrangler Million Dollar ProRodeo Gold Tour event for the 2011 season. It means the folks in Kansas City had to find at least $160,000 in sponsorship dollars BEFORE the rodeo could open the first gate.
Still, there was plenty of skepticism. With the 2010 NFR looming – it runs Dec. 2-11 in Las Vegas – would contestants come to Kansas City in October for a 2011 event?
The answer was a resounding yes.
Will Lowe told me Oct. 14 that while most cowboys want to recover from the rugged regular season, they’ll make sure they’re at rodeos that provide so much money and that are part of the tour, which features 23 rodeos and helps contestants work toward a playoff system that paves the way to the annual championship.
The American Royal had to make a tough decision. The one the volunteers made was in the best interest of the American Royal’s legacy.
It was the right one.