Wrangler Champions Challenge TV series to debut on Feb. 4
February 4, 2014
The Wrangler Champions Challenge, sponsored by Justin Boots, will debut the first of eight televised rodeos featuring teams of top PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) contestants pitted against the best rodeo livestock at the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS) Rodeo in Rapid City on Feb. 4. Designed to help make top rodeo athletes household names, and provide them the opportunity to win serious pay-out money, the event is causing excitement among both fans and contestants.
"For years our contestants and members have been saying we need to make stars out of our contestants. With over 7,000 members, it's hard to follow when you're going to a rodeo and a different guy shows up in every short go," began PRCA Director of Marketing Sarah Muirhead of what lead to the development of the event, which was successfully piloted with a three-rodeo series in 2013.
A total of 10 contestants will compete in each event. Athletes finishing the year strongest at the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) will be guaranteed a spot to compete on one of the teams, with and additional three contestants added based on current year standings and other factors.
"The top seven in the world standings coming out of 2013 will be on each of the seven teams. The other three positions are filled by top place finishers in the 2014 standings 30 days prior to a Wrangler Champion Challenge event and the reining venue champion of the host city," explained Muirhead.
In the event of an injury, the next highest ranking athlete within that event will be pulled up to round out the team."Another new thing this year is the increase in prize money," continued Muirhead of one real advantage to competing in the series. "In 2013 it was a $10,000 payoff per event, and that has now moved to a $16,000 payoff. Of the 611 rodeos the PRCA had in 2013, there were only 7 rodeos that paid out that much money in a one-day event."
The contestants also voted to change each event to a 5-place payout in 2014, meaning that half of the competitors will receive a check in every event, at all eight stops on the series.
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"Sutton Rodeo put up half the prize money with us for this year, and that has been huge as well," noted Muirhead.
She added that the PRCA's longstanding relationship with Sutton Rodeo, who were among the first stock contractors to show interest in the series, was also a key factor in selecting Rapid City and the BHSS as the host for the inaugural rodeo.
Other early sponsors include Coors, Justin Boots, Wrangler and B&W Trailer Hitches, all of whom have sponsored a team in the series via the PRCA's team sponsor draft following the NFR.
"We still have three teams left to sell, and are working diligently to accomplish that prior to Rapid. But, all 80 guys will be here whether their team has been sponsored or not, and each team will have different colored shirts, so you'll have quite a rainbow and show," noted Muirhead.
The PRCA's new television partner, CBS Sports Net, is also fully onboard, increasing coverage from a 60-minute segment in 2013 to 90-minutes of rodeo action this year. The additional half hour means almost every event and contestant will be covered in each series stop.
The Rapid City rodeo will air on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. mountain time. It is on Dish channel 158 and Directv channel 221. "It will also be aired on quite a few local cable outlets, so please check those as well," noted Muirhead.
Following Rapid City, the contestants will compete in Scottsdale, Ariz. on March 9, and Redding, Cal. on May 5. Towns in Utah, Washington and Texas will also host rodeos during the series' regular season. The finale will be held in Omaha, Neb. in October.
"We are looking for new venues to go to – not just the same consistent ones we've had championship rodeos at before. In the case of Rapid City, we knew this would be a great show, a great turnout, and that there is a great fan base here. Plus, Sutton has some of the best stock we use," stated Muirhead of why the decision was made to begin in Rapid City and follow it up with rodeos hosted at similar venues and towns across the country.
"The BHSS and Sutton Rodeo is one of the most exciting and best things we do every year. We truly look forward to the event, and we are really pleased that the PRCA has chosen Rapid City to kick off this Championship Challenge," concluded Rushmore Plaza Civic Center General Manager Brian Maliske of the excitement being experienced locally in response to the news.