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China Offers Unique Venues

By: Keith Ryan Cartwright May 17, 2014@ 09:35:00 AM

Guoxin Arena in Qingdao, China, is commonly referred to as “The Diamond.” Photo courtesy of Casey Duggan.

FORT WORTH, Texas ― On a return flight from a recent trip to China, Casey Duggan was simply glad to have been there.

“I’ve been in this business my entire life,” said Duggan, who is the Director of Special Events, Domestic and International, “and to be able to take this sport to a new culture means a lot to me.”

Duggan and SVP Production Clayton Cullen made a six-day trip during which they scouted a trio of venues that will be used this fall, including the new state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and the Gouxin Arena in Qingdao.

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According to Duggan, Mercedes-Benz Arena, which is owned and operated by AEG, is an amazing facility that includes a mall, ice rink and movie theater.

When fitted with the same production as the Built Ford Tough Series, the Mercedes-Benz facility can hold between 10 and 11,000 people. Priefert is now in the process of building all the fencing and chutes that will be needed.

The purpose of advanced scouting is to not only find what each particular venue has, but also what they don’t have, along with what to expect once the load-in dates begin in the future.

Guoxin Arena is commonly referred to as “The Diamond” because of its unique design.

“Some of the bigger challenges we’re going to have there is the doors that we would need to drive the dirt trucks in only have a 9-foot-6 clearance, so there’s no possibility of getting dirt trucks in, Duggan said. “Now we’re going to have to look at some of the models of what we do at Albuquerque, (New Mexico), to get into The Pit.”

Rather than planning for a two-day load-in process, Duggan said they’ll need to account for four or five days at the older, smaller government-managed building.

Despite a longer than normal setup, the bonus is the PBR will occupy The Diamond throughout the entire month of August for 20 performances over a 30-day period.

“It’s one load-in and one load-out versus the weekly basis like we do here,” explained Duggan.

He added that the Qingdao event is followed by a 12-day layoff before resuming with a three-performance event in Nanjing, which is located outside of Shanghai, and then concluding with nine performances in a span of 11 days in Shanghai.

Duggan indicated the final performances in Shanghai “would be their championship version over there.”

The Shanghai event is scheduled to take place during the last week of September and the first week of October.

“The significance of the first week of October is that it’s a national holiday—a seven-day holiday – so they’re looking for some big crowds,” Duggan said. “Nobody works and everybody’s looking for some form of entertainment.”

After making the trip, Duggan said aside from the language barrier, the biggest challenge will be teaching his Chinese counterparts what is done production-wise in the U.S. and then molding it to how things are done and what would be expected within the Chinese culture.

For example, they typically do not use pyro indoors.

A Chinese Fire Marshall was on hand last week in Las Vegas to observe a typical BFTS opening. He was in the U.S. as a special consultant on project and will work with Duggan and Chief Global Events Officer Dave Cordovano, who are making another trip to China the first week in June, in obtaining the proper approvals at all three arenas.

“Luckily I went on a Spain rodeo tour in 2009, so I had a little bit of the concept,” Duggan said. “We knew it was going to be different, so other than the cultural difference, how will they do things different?”

“We’re just going through the process and using a lot of pictures to understand it because they haven’t seen it. They’ve seen a little bit of TV and videos, but until you can put a picture in front of them or a diagram and explain it to them they really don’t understand. Luckily their guy is here and he can go back and say, ‘OK, this is what Casey and Clayton were talking about.’”

Duggan will oversee these events, as well as the planning for this year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals, which take place in late-October.

Therefore, there’s a lot to be accomplished in the next 11 weeks.

Historical significance of these events – they’ll be the first bull riding events to ever take place in China – is not lost upon Duggan.

On his return flight three weeks ago, Duggan said one of the thoughts he had upon takeoff was how happy he was to be a part of this project.

“Secondly, is holy crap we’re going to do this in August,” he joked.

It will be a memorable experience when it is all said and done.

“I’m going to videotape that first bull and be really proud,” Duggan concluded. “It’s not going to be perfect and we’re going to tweak it, just like we do every show here. If there’s something that doesn’t work right or it needs to be changed, we’ll change it for the next show and we’ll constantly tweak it like we do here in America.”

Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @pbr_krc.

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