Prior to the Pendleton Round-Up’s centennial celebration in 2010, Randy Thomas said he received some words of caution.
Thomas was an ex-officio member of the Round-Up Board of Directors at the time, and recalled board members from other rodeos encouraging the Round-Up to take advantage of its anniversary, with the caveat that revenue would likely dip in the years that followed.
Now entering his final year as publicity director, Thomas said that not only have the Round-Up’s ticket sales managed to stay within 10 percent of the 2010 benchmark, they exceeded them in 2017.
On the road at the PRCA National Convention in Las Vegas, office director Jason Graybeal said the Round-Up brought in $1.15 million in ticket revenue and $760,532 in retail revenue in 2017. The previous high in 2010 provided the Round-Up with $1.1 million in ticket sales.
Thomas and Graybeal credited much of the Round-Up’s growth to the arena’s east end improvements, which Thomas called “high-end experience enhancers.”
Following the removal of the dilapidated east end seating, the Round-Up board instituted two new ticketing options for the 2016 Round-Up: the Let ’Er Buck pass and the 1910 Room.
Those tickets are an opposite sides of the economic spectrum. For $20, the Let ’Er Buck pass gets the customer through the gate and access to any unreserved seat in the arena. Ranging from $150 for an individual ticket in an open seating area to $5,000 for a 20-person private suite, the canopied 1910 Room provides arena-side views with gourmet dining.
Graybeal said these new ticket options helped the Round-Up have its best Saturday ever, in both total attendance and ticket revenue. Although the Round-Up didn’t sell as many seats as it did in 2010, total ticket revenue surpassed 2010’s amount.
While Graybeal couldn’t say exactly where the ticket purchasers were coming from, he said the Round-Up is “more renowned at a worldwide scale.” The Round-Up is heavily represented at the PRCA convention and the National Finals Rodeo, where Round-Up has a booth manned with board members, staffers, volunteers and rodeo court royalty to promote the Round-Up beyond the confines of the Northwest.
The Round-Up’s brand is strong enough that people are buying more and more of its memorabilia. Graybeal said retail sales grew by 12.1 percent more than the year before. Graybeal said one of the strongest areas of growth was through the Round-Up’s online store, which saw a 52 percent jump in sales.
Besides the new ticketing options, Thomas pointed to some of the upgrades the Round-Up has made in recent years, including improvements to the rodeo’s Wi-Fi, information technology and ticketing system.
With the latter upgrade in place, the Round-Up was able to process tickets for other events besides the rodeo, opening up the Round-Up Grounds to events like the Pendleton Whisky Music Fest and the Thunder in the Blues motorcycle race. Graybeal said the Round-Up processed 100,000 tickets in 2017, almost double the amount the Round-Up processes for the rodeo alone.
Thomas said some stockholders have taken issue with the increase in staffing the Round-Up has made in recent years. But according to Thomas, the new hires are needed to handle the higher volume of business demonstrated in recent financial statements.
Dissatisfaction with the board of directors was strong enough that stockholders nearly defeated the board’s pick for president in 2018 at a November meeting. After the meeting, the newly elected president, Dave O’Neill, promised increased transparency and better communication with stockholders and volunteers.
Stockholders will get a chance to evaluate the Round-Up’s financial prospects themselves when the board discusses its 2017 financial statement at a special February stockholders meeting.
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.