Examining the financial impact of a lost rodeo
When the annual Fourth of July rodeo in St. Paul was canceled due to COVID-19, fans from around the state and country were understandably disappointed. Competitors, whose livelihoods depend on these competitions, lost out on an opportunity to bring in a significant chunk of change.
But the financial impact on the town and the rodeo organization itself is important as well. In order to make up for lost revenue, officials at the St. Paul Rodeo are jump-starting a number of initiatives designed to both help the community and prepare for future events.
Thankfully, according to rodeo general manager Cindy Schonholtz, much of the money slated to be invested in the 2020 rodeo will carry over to 2021.
"The income from the St. Paul Rodeo each year helps pay for the overhead of the organization, and any profit is put into a building fund to help with the capital improvement projects that are necessary," she said. "We were fortunate to have many sponsors and ticket holders roll their money into 2021 and a few sponsors that continued their sponsorship this year, even though we were unable to host our annual rodeo."
The rodeo organization, Schonholtz added, is cutting expenses where possible and heavily scrutinizing its spending in order to keep money in its reserves. That money is to be used almost exclusively for capital improvement projects such as new lighting in the stadium and rodeo grounds, which Schonholtz said should be completed by next year's event.
"We are excited to host our friends at the 2021 St. Paul Rodeo with the new improved lighting," she said. "We know it will be an enhanced experience for everyone involved."
The St. Paul Rodeo has a $250,000 charitable impact on the town that hosts it. Schonholtz said roughly $70,000 of this comes from direct donations to local organizations and the rest comes from providing a significant fundraising venue for those organizations such as the St. Paul High School Boosters, St. Paul Parish of the Catholic Church, the Jaycees and more.
The rodeo also is partnering with its foundation to lessen the impact on its partner organizations. The rodeo is inviting them to submit grant proposals for projects they would have funded with proceeds from their activities at the rodeo and writing those grants with the help of the foundation. Recently, they presented a $6,200 check to the St. Paul High booster club to cover athlete scholarships and team uniforms.
The rodeo and its foundation also have created an initiative called Rodeo Stronger to offer emergency financial assistance to rodeo stock contractors. This, Schonholtz said, will help with mounting feed bills due to the pandemic.
Despite all the financial challenges associated with not putting on the rodeo, the organization continues giving back to the community it calls home and the people who make the event happen every year. Where a portion of the financial worry is being felt is at the city level, where revenues from the rodeo this year are missing due to its cancellation. The rodeo plans to make the city whole in certain areas.
"The city of St. Paul benefits from the rodeo as we have an agreement with them to manage the stadium and have exclusive use for the time when we have rodeo events," Schonholtz said. "The amount we pay for that exclusive use will still be paid to the city this year even though we did not have a rodeo. The one area that the city will see a decrease in revenue is vendor permit fees. Each vendor pays the city a fee in order to conduct business in the city of St. Paul during the rodeo; those funds will not be forthcoming to the city due to the cancellation of the event. Additionally, there are a few rentals of the city's community hall that will not take place due to the cancellation of the rodeo."
In order to bridge part of its revenue gap, the rodeo also is continuing to sell souvenir and collectible items on its website, stpaulrodeo.com, under the "Shop" tab. Additionally, tickets for the 2021 rodeo will go on sale much earlier than usual, starting Aug. 14. The 2021 rodeo is slated for June 30 through July 4.
Schonholtz is optimistic that by next summer, the rodeo should go off without a hitch. Health experts say a vaccine for COVID-19 could be available by this winter, but whether that is the case and it is widely available by next summer remains to be seen.
"We have hopes that we will be through the pandemic well before next year's rodeo," she said. "We think people will be ready for events by next summer and we hope it is a very successful event. We are hopeful businesses can get back to normal sooner rather than later, which will benefit our sponsors, members and fans."
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