POCATELLO — The Idaho High School Rodeo Association Championships will be hosted from June 13 through June 20 at the Bannock County Event Center as originally planned, despite the COVID-19 crisis, the county announced Friday.
During a Friday meeting, the association and the Bannock County Commission agreed to guidelines that will make it possible to host the event safely amid the pandemic, said Guy Patterson, business manager and events director for the Portneuf Wellness Complex and Bannock County Event Center.
Patterson said the county and the association will split costs of hiring a local cleaning service to make certain surfaces throughout the venue and the county’s RV park are sanitized frequently. Furthermore, the association has agreed to implement and police a policy requiring guests to wear face masks.
For the protection of staff, Patterson said sanitary wipes will be placed inside of water trucks and tractors used to groom dirt surfaces. While many insurance companies have added clauses to contracts indicating they won’t cover contagious viruses, Patterson said the county has confirmed the association’s coverage does provide protection against COVID-19.
“We feel like it’s important and it’s worth doing so we can bring those dollars to the local businesses,” Patterson said of hosting the rodeo. “We’re working to build a world-class facility so they can keep coming and we can attract more events.”
At a time when large events throughout the country are being canceled or postponed, Patterson acknowledges many in the community may be concerned about bringing in visitors from throughout the state. While there are some COVID-19 “flareup spots” in Idaho, he said the data reflects a general decline in transmission statewide.
The event usually attracts a couple hundred student athletes who book about 450 horse stalls — many bring more than one horse. About 200 guests typically camp in the RV park. Patterson is uncertain what to expect this summer, given the threat of the coronavirus.
An expansion and improvements at the RV park are scheduled to be completed prior to the rodeo, he said. In time for the event, 69 new RV sites will be added, as will new sewer, water and power hookups. Furthermore some of the spaces will be converted into pull-through sites for larger motorhomes.
Patterson said 60 new horse stalls have also been added to the county facility to accommodate the rodeo.
Though he’s uncertain of the event’s economic impact, he noted a local committee worked to land the event several years ago. The event is in the final year of its contract. In the spring, the county submitted a bid in hopes of retaining the rodeo finals in the future.
Patterson emphasized that the local venue is unique in that the county has the grandstand infrastructure for the association to host two events at once.
“We’ve built infrastructure to better support events,” Patterson said.