Bannock County agreement keeps state rodeo finals in Pocatello

December 22, 2018

POCATELLO — The Bannock County Commission has resolved a contract disagreement with the Idaho High School Rodeo Association, averting the risk of the community losing one of its largest events for at least three more years.

An association representative consented Thursday morning to a 50 percent increase in the fee for using Bannock County Event Center facilities during the eight-day state rodeo finals, to be hosted in early June of 2020. The fee will increase by 3 percent in both 2021 and 2022.

Commissioner Steve Brown said the increase still doesn’t “put a dent” in the actual costs county taxpayers incur to host the event. He and Portneuf Rodeo Committee Chairman Kelly Duffin, who spoke on the association’s behalf, have agreed to meet regularly to identify ways to cut costs of future rodeos.

“The last thing we want to do is drive out the rodeo, but we also recognize there is a higher responsibility, and we have to figure out the right balance of taking care of the taxpayer and making sure you’re treated fairly,” Brown told Duffin.

The finals have been hosted in Pocatello for the past 23 years and have grown to include about 350 contestants. A recent economic impact study conducted by Idaho State University at the county’s behest estimated the high school finals have an annual economic impact on the community of $800,000 to $1.5 million. The study found an affiliated three-day junior high school rodeo at the county facility brings in another $750,000 per year.

“That’s outside wealth and outside dollars that are coming into our county,” Commissioner Terrel “Ned” Tovey said.

Duffin said the event was hosted in Filer for three decades before the local Chamber of Commerce moved it to Pocatello. Duffin said the cities of Filer and Nampa were ecstatic about the possibility of luring away the rodeo finals when they learned about the local contract issues.

The new contract — $7,500 for use of the facility and a $1,000 fee on vendors in the initial year — represents a fraction of what the county initially sought to collect.

“We can work with that,” Duffin said, adding Bannock County operates the state’s best-equipped equine facility. “(The state association) is going to be happy with the commitment.”

The county had initially asked the association to boost its annual payment to about $33,000 under a new fee structure, which Brown said seeks to better reflect the county’s actual costs.

“We set some new fees last year to try to balance things out — to be more responsible about how we spend taxpayers’ money,” Brown said. “We’re cleaning a lot of things up.”

The county made similar contract concessions Thursday to retain the association’s junior high school rodeo finals, which take place over three days, in Pocatello. The junior high event will pay $3,400 toward facilities and a $500 vendor fee in the first year, with fees rising by 7 percent in both 2021 and 2022.

Duffin said keeping the rodeo events in town is big news for local businesses. He said a manager at C-A-L Ranch Stores told him rodeo week is the busiest time of year for his business. He said local hotels also fill and tables are hard to find at local restaurants during rodeo week.

“It’s an incredible economic impact — probably the largest of any event that comes into the community,” Duffin said.

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