Sport interests for baby boomers, whether as participants or spectators.

Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Finals-Behind the Scenes

Lisa Niday - Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sports are different to everyone. For some it's NFL, NBA, college basketball or football, baseball, etc but by the time you reach baby boomer stage, the majority of the sports we participate in are now spectator sports. That's not to say that plenty of us don't indulge in golf, fishing, hunting, tennis or other sports but we all know that our bodies tell us that our most active participation in sports is behind us.

Now everyone can choose to follow all kinds of sports as a spectator. I personally am a fan of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders). Judging by the number of baby boomers in attendance last night at the finals, I think many of you share this following. Why do I like it? Mainly because it is real. These guys don't get paid unless they ride. They don't have million dollar contracts which pay them when they are injured. They love their fans and they actually show it by letting the fans interact with them. Now for those who have followed rodeo events, you have probably seen bull riding as part of the rodeo. In PBR, it is all bulls and has all the adrenaline and excitement for each 8 second ride.

My husband and I are here in Las Vegas for the PBR Finals. This is our 3rd year to attend the Finals. We try to make it to 2 or 3 PBR events "live" throughout the PBR season and then we follow it on tv the rest of the season. Normally we cover PBR with press passes and have more behind the scenes follow up. This year we are mainly participating as fans and spectators only.

Last night was the first round and a relatively small crowd (compared to what Thomas & Mack holds) attended. Last night belonged to the bulls. Why do I say this? Well out of the 45 riders, only 9 were able to get the coveted 8 second ride. Round 1 winner was Caleb Sanderson from Florida posting 88.50 but followed closely by Ryan Dirteater, from Oklahoma scoring 88.25 points. So enough about round 1. Be sure to check out the videos from round 1-Luke Snyder flies off the back of the bull illustrating why these guys are in the toughest sport on dirt. The second video, is of one of the few qualified rides of the night, JB Mauney.

Behind the Scenes

Another thing which makes the PBR unique is that they really cater to their fan base, by having a fan club with unique opportunities for members. I would say some 100 fans attended the Behind the Chutes tour. I would actually say it was named incorrectly, it was really a "production tour".  We were treated to about an hour and a half of learning what it takes to put on the PBR events and specifically the finals. It was also a great chance for the fans to voice opinions about performance items which could be addressed in the upcoming nights' performances.

We were told about how the gate men do their jobs letting the bulls loose from the chutes. Far more to this than merely opening a gate. They have to know how the particular rider calls for the gate, carefully opening it to entice the bull to come right out without getting confused to ensure the rider gets every chance of making the 8 seconds.


It was previously a paper based process which took a couple of minutes to display the results. Today of course punch tablets have helped automate the process. There are 4 judges, 2 on the back of the chute, 2 in the arena and a replay judge. Even if the rider bucks off the judge, still must score the bull. As most of you who follow bull riding know, the score is comprise 50% of the rider and the other 50% is the bull score out of a total possible 50 points for each.

Production Load In

The production load in begins with some 25 crew, 35 PBR staff and about 30 hired onsite production crew to assemble the 4 semi loads of equipment, six days prior to the finals. They start with audio and lighting which had some 65,000 pounds of materials hanging in the ceiling at Thomas and Mack.

Next came the fantastic new high definition screens which display inside the Thomas and Mack. These 4 screens cost some $44 million dollars and took an entire day to assemble. Each panel of the screen must be connected and assembled with another. I will have to say, it is incredible inside the arena and gives a great view. For the finals they are renting these.

Once all this is assembled they begin to lay fiber optic, audio and data cables. There is over 2 miles of cable just in the pit area of the arena.

Check out the video the new high definition screen, the size ensures there is no "bad" seat in the house.

Once that is completed they bring in the dirt. Truck load, after truck load, of their own dirt which is stored here in Las Vegas is dumped on the arena floor. The dirt is 8 inches deep over the concrete surface. They told us they owned their dirt in Glendale, Arizona too. Imagine their surprise when they arrived to set up the next year and the dirt was missing. Seemed some construction site had needed some fill dirt. This year the PBR has added glitter to the finals dirt. Appeared to be a mixed reaction amongst the fans, but some 250 lbs of glitter was added to simulate the glitter of Las Vegas.

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