Rock Springs, Wyo., prepares for rodeo return

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SWEETWATER COUNTY, Wyo. — Sweetwater Events Complex staff members are looking forward to the National High School Finals Rodeo coming back to Rock Springs.

“We’re ready,” Sweetwater Events Complex Executive Director Larry Lloyd said. “The stalls are almost up. We’re excited about that. We’ve been chatting with the high school rodeo folks; they’re ready to come here.

“We’re right on point.”

The complex is nearing the completion of 784 new horse stalls. About 450 with roof frames have been put up as of Tuesday, Lloyd said.

“I think one of the big things for us is that we’ll have all those stalls in place,” he said. “They should be happy with that; we’re going to be happy with that.”

The complex has also had several committee meetings with different parties like the shooting and queen contest groups, Events Complex Marketing and Events Director Kandi Pendleton said.

It is also working on recruiting volunteers and accepting vendor applications. If vendors are interested, they could contact Office Manager Erika Koshar at 307-352-6789.

Tight turnaround

The last National High School Finals Rodeo in Sweetwater County took place in 2015. Since then the event has been hosted in Gillette.

“We got a whole new round of high school kids who have come through the ranks,” Lloyd said.

Every year the kids get smarter and tougher, he said. It’s just a good all-around rodeo.

In January 2017, the complex reached a deal with the National High School Finals Association to host the event on two-year cycles. It will remain in the area in 2019 before it goes on to Lincoln, Neb., in 2020 and 2021, and Gillette in 2022 and 2023. It comes back to Sweetwater County in 2024 and 2025.

The 2018 event will occur weeks after the complex hosts the Wyoming State High School Rodeo Finals, which runs from June 4 to 9.

Lloyd said he isn’t worried about the quick turnaround.

“I think without question we’re experts at switching from one event to another,” he said.

No junior high rodeo

The complex will not be hosting the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo any time soon. It was learned over the weekend it lost its bid to host the event in 2022-23 and 2024-25.

On Jan. 27, the National High School Finals Rodeo Association board selected Perry, Ga., to host the event in 2022 and 2023, while the 2024 and 2025 events will be in Des Moines, Iowa, the Gillette News Record reported.

Rock Springs, Gillette, Huron, S.D. and Lebanon, Tenn., had put their hats in the ring.

The event will be in Huron in 2018 and 2019 before going to Des Moines in 2020 and 2021.

“I think that was a little bit of a surprise for both Rock Springs and Gillette, but not a huge surprise,” Lloyd said.

He said the decision came down to the board’s preference to have the event in a large indoor arena after there were issues involving the weather at the 2016 and 2017 National High School Finals Rodeo in Lebanon.

“I don’t think it’s a bad move on their part and it’s not going to stop us from bidding on it in the future,” he said. “We will always be putting in for those types of events that bring in people from across the United States. It’s great for Wyoming and it’s great for Sweetwater County.

“It’s a huge impact for our community.”

In the meantime, the complex is expected to have a number of large horse events during those dates.

“We will issue a press release when we have our ducks in a row,” Lloyd said.

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