This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Days of '47 Rodeo has bounced around a variety of sports arenas in the past few decades, leapfrogging from the old Salt Palace to the Delta Center, then from (the renamed) EnergySolutions Arena to the Maverik Center and back to (the renamed again) Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Now the rodeo has its own digs. The Days of '47 opens Wednesday (7 p.m.) at the Utah State Fairpark, in the brand new Days of '47 Rodeo Arena. And it will be unlike any Days of '47 Rodeo that most fans have experienced before.
"Every good rodeo is an outdoor rodeo," Days of '47 Rodeo chairman Kem Gardner said last week as he and his staff made final preparations for the annual five-night run, which wraps up on Monday.
The new arena, which seats 10,000, cost $17 million and was financed through public money and private donations. The facility not only provides a new home for the rodeo, it will also host concerts, motocross and other events, according to officials.
And it is being counted on to become an economic driver for the Fairpark which had faced an uncertain future in recent years. Ideas being tossed around included shuttering the whole thing and redeveloping the property, which sits just west of downtown.
Real Salt Lake initially proposed building a 5,000-seat soccer stadium on the property for its minor league team, but was turned away as the Fairpark issue was debated by lawmakers. A later, second proposal found a more receptive audience.
"Part of the master business plan we submitted to the Legislature several years ago included construction of a new multipurpose, outdoor arena along with a financial impact that will provide for the local community," said Fairpark executive director Larry Mullenax.
Added Gardner: "I knew we couldn't let that valuable piece of ground go. It's too important to our community, especially to the west side."
The early reviews for the new arena are positive at least from the guys who will be working there.
"The old arena wasn't good or bad. It was just a little smaller, which messed with some animals," said Tremonton rodeo cowboy Caleb Bennett, who will be competing at the Fairpark this week. "Some animals don't like to perform in tighter arenas like that so it played a little bit of a part on what you drew and how you did. Now, I feel like it's going to be more of a rodeo venue and will add to our success."
And yes, it could be a little warm, with high temperatures in the mid- to high-90s forecast for the rodeo's run. The 7 p.m. starts will take a little of the edge off the heat, but for those arriving earlier daily activities around the rodeo begin at 1 p.m. it will be on the toasty side.
Bennett says the heat will be a nonfactor for the cowboys, who routinely compete outdoors in this kind of weather. But the fans?
"Bring a fan or buy a water sprayer," said Gardner. "I am not going to apologize for the weather because it is something that you have to endure to have an outdoor rodeo."
Gardner did say, however, that later start times perhaps 8 p.m. could be in the rodeo's future.
"This year we had cowboys that are trying to make it to other rodeos so we agreed to start out rodeo at seven," he said. "So we are accommodating the cowboys. Next year I am going to accommodate our fans."
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Days of '47 Rodeo Arena
Capacity • 10,000
Cost • $17 million
Financing • Public/private
7 p.m. nightly
Wednesday-Saturday • Semifinals
Monday • Finals
Payout • $1 million total