Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association shuts Hall of Fame to cut losses

MARCH 2005 Animal People

Colorado springs – Facing a cash flow crunch, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in January 2005 changed commissioners, closed the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy, located near the PRCA national head office in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and reportedly may alter the formats of several major events to attract more TV money.

New PRCA commissioner Troy Ellerman told Jeff Wolf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the Hall of Fame roped in from 40,000 to 50,000 visitors in 2004, but lost more than $300,000. Ellerman hoped to reopen it for the summer tourist season.

Ellerman reportedly saved the PRCA $500,000 by moving the ProRodeo Tour winter series finale from the Orleans Arena in central Las Vegas to a site outside the city. Wrote Wolf, “The events in Las Vegas at best half-filled the Orleans Arena,” as occurred at the original venue, the MGM Grand Garden.

An attorney based in Sacramento, California, Ellerman is a former rodeo competitor. Added to the PRCA board in 1995, he had served as board chair since 1999.

How much time Ellerman will have for the PCRA is unclear. Ellerman represents James J. Valente, vice president of Bay Area Lab Cooperative. Noted for supplying training supplements to professional athletes, the company is better known as BALCO. Four BALCO employees including Valente were indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2004 on charges including money-laundering, conspiracy to distribute steroids, possession of human growth hormone, and misbranding drugs with intent to defraud. The trial is to begin in March 2005.M

Jury selection began on February 15, 2005 for another trial involving Ellerman as Valente’s counsel, a $3.8 million civil suit brought against former Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski by former teammate Marcus Williams. Williams, a tight end, contends his football career was ended by brain damage suffered when Romanowski hit him in a practice field altercation driven by “steroid rage.” Valente has been called as a witness.

Unanimously elected to a four-year term as PRCA commissioner, Ellerman succeeded Stephen Hatchell, the PRCA commissioner since 1998. Hatchell resigned in December 2004.

“Hatchell created the ProRodeo Tour [in 2000], that provided nearly $2 million in added prize money for the sport’s top competitors and stock contractors,” wrote Joe Kusek of the Billings Gazette. “He also created the Xtreme Bulls Tour, when ESPN wanted a bull riding tour to televise. Under his leadership, TV time for the PRCA increased from 46 hours in 1998 to nearly 300 hours last year.”

But “The PRCA lost more than $500,000 on its National Finals Rodeo coverage last year,” Kusek continued. “The PRCA purchases air time on ESPN and ESPN2 and tries to recoup the money through advertising.”

Ellerman admitted that the PRCA lost money in each year of Hatchell’s tenure.

Kusek reported on January 27 that the PRCA might restructure the National Finals Rodeo to encourage “big-money dramatic finishes,” in hopes of selling the rights to broadcast the NFR to CBS, which already broadcasts the tour finales.

The PRCA is a nonprofit association (not a charity), that claims nearly 10,000 individual members and sanctions nearly 700 mostly amateur rodeos per year.

“For at least the last few years of Hatchell’s tenure,” Kusek wrote, “efforts were made to create a separate entity that would be devoted to the professional elements of the PRCA.”

Assessed SHARK founder Steve Hindi, “The long, hard slide to reality began when SHARK exposed animal abuse at PRCA rodeos. Relatively few diehard fans buy the tickets. Most attendees are ignorant of what they will see. Some are shocked, some are disgusted, and some are just plain bored with what they witness. Those with hearts and brains are not likely to return.

“With practically empty arenas at so many rodeos, the phony cowboys are addicted to sponsorship money,” Hindi continued.

“A few years ago the PRCA lost an important sponsor, Coca-Cola,” Hindi reminded, “after SHARK showed a corporate official video footage of rodeo animal abuse. Coke still allows individual bottlers to sponsor rodeos, but now the PRCA is stuck with crumbs instead of the whole loaf. The PRCA tried a deal with Dr. Pepper. That deal fizzled, again after SHARK talked to the company.

“Now Campbell Soup subsidiary Pace Foods is sponsoring the PRCA as well as steer roper Cash Meyers. Steer roping is the most abusive event in rodeo, with the highest death and injury rate,” Hindi charged, en route in the SHARK video display truck to hand-deliver video of steer roping to the Campbell head office in Camden, New Jersey.

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