FORT WORTH, Texas ― Less than 24 hours after completing the load-out in Kansas City, Mo., the PBR crew and all its gear are nearly 600 miles away and ready for four-plus days of setup and preparations for what is the biggest and, perhaps, most anticipated weekend in the history of Western sports.
The arena crew and production crew have already arrived at AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium), in Arlington, Texas, to start the unloading of more than twice the number of trucks and equipment used at a typical Built Ford Tough Series event.
“We (started) tipping trucks at 8 a.m. Tuesday,” said Jim White, assistant production manager.
Doors on the last truck out of Kansas City were closed before noon Monday and the crew will spend all day Tuesday unloading lights and sound equipment, along with flying them up to the rafters below the famed video screen inside the stadium. Dirt will be hauled in beginning Tuesday night and continue on through the night.
According to Jerome Robinson, who oversees the area crew (which is separate from White’s production crew), eight semi-trailers of steel fencing and bucking chutes –five more than usual – will be unloaded starting Wednesday morning for the annual Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V.
A typical Built Ford Tough Series event uses three trucks worth.
Robinson’s crew will then begin the task of setting up and configuring the arena Thursday morning and by mid-afternoon they’ll start on the roping chutes, which will be used Sunday afternoon for THE AMERICAN.
Once the arena is in place the production crew will be working 12 to 14-hour days getting the live production elements – video, lights and sound – in place, as well as signage.
Friday will be spent tweaking all elements of the two events—be it arena or production.
“We’re show-ready Friday night before we leave,” White said.
Robinson and his crew of 16, led by Ted Groene, will run cattle on Friday night and let barrel racers into the arena in an effort to get their horses acclimated to the environment. That night they’ll tear out the roping chutes and reset the arena for Saturday’s bull riding event.
That gives Robinson a chance to see Sunday’s configuration before his crew installs the shark cages.
“It’s such a big place that when they first told me that’s what they wanted to do I envisioned that we’d leave the arena just the way it is,” said Robinson, “but we’d build a roping arena that goes across (the configuration).”
The roping arena will be 180 feet long and easily fit in one of the two large bull riding configurations on the arena floor.
Robinson’s only concern was the barrel racing configuration, but said everyone was cooperative in shortening the pattern by 10 feet in one direction and five feet in the other.
“Everything fits,” he said.
By then his crew, which includes an extra six men, will likely be working round-the-clock with a few of them sleeping in six-hour shifts, while the others continue working and rotate accordingly.
Once the Iron Cowboy is complete, Robinson said a few of the men will return to the hotel for a couple hours of sleep and be ready by 4 a.m. to help with the changeover, while the others will sleep in the early-morning hours.
Unlike the Iron Cowboy, THE AMERICAN is taking place in the afternoon.
“They’re used to long days and I’ve actually brought in additional help,” said Robinson, who will immediately get to work on the load-out process Sunday evening. “We’ll be working through the night.”
White’s production crew will swell from its normal window of 14 to 18 workers to as many as 25, along with the additional manpower of local stagehands.
According to White, this year’s production for the Iron Cowboy will also include twice as much pyro as is normally used for a regularly-formatted BFTS event and the opening will feature a laser-light show.
THE AMERICAN is the richest one-day rodeo in history with in excess of $2 million in prize money.
Once it all ends both crews have the arduous task of tearing it down and then packing up begins again. The following BFTS event is 1,000 miles west of Arlington in Phoenix, Ariz.
As long as no “unforeseen circumstances” prevent them from following the plan, Robinson said, “There shouldn’t be any problems.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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