By: Kacie Albert
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time in four years, PBR’s (Professional Bull Riders) elite Unleash The Beast will return to Jacksonville, Florida, welcoming fans into VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena Jan. 30-31 for the PBR Jacksonville Invitational.
The PBR Jacksonville Invitational will abide by the health standards as approved by the City of Jacksonville. PBR is following all local and state health protocols, and along with VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, is instituting a series of fan safety protocols, including:
• All fans as well as staff and competitors will be required to wear face masks inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
• In addition to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-informed screening, all PBR personnel will undergo medical testing for COVID-19.
• PBR will only sell up to 41% of arena capacity to separate fans.
• All fans will be in POD seating, to minimize fan crossover when entering and exiting their seats.
• VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena has gone cashless. All purchases, including parking, concessions and merchandise transactions will require a debit or credit card. Mobile concessions ordering will be available on the venue’s updated App set to be released in December.
• Increased sanitization of high-contact areas including doors, railings, concession counters, merchandise stands, bathrooms and elevators.
• Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the venue at high volume areas to promote hand hygiene.
• Social distancing will be encouraged at the concession stands, restrooms and merchandise stands.
Prior to the PBR Unleash The Beast event in late January, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena is scheduled to hold five Jacksonville Icemen hockey games, with the first slated for December 12, 2020.
The PBR’s return to Jacksonville will mark the third Unleash The Beast event of 2021. The season is scheduled to begin in Duluth, Georgia, on Jan. 8-9, with the premier series anticipated to visit Indianapolis, Indiana, St. Louis, Missouri, and New Orleans, Louisiana in the following weeks.
While the Unleash The Beast hasn’t thrilled fans in the River City since 2017, the league has a storied history in Jacksonville.
In the 2002 debut of PBR’s premier series in the city, Mike Lee (Decatur, Texas) won the inaugural event, followed closely by two-time PBR World Champion Chris Shivers (Jonesville, Louisiana) in second, the year’s eventual World Champion Ednei Caminhas (Indaiatuba, Brazil) in fourth, and three-time PBR World Champion Adriano Moraes (Cachoeira Paulista, Brazil) in fifth.
After Jody Newberry (Ada, Oklahoma) topped the Jacksonville event leaderboard in 2003, Justin McBride (Whitesboro, Texas) tied for the victory in 2005 alongside Brian Courson (Winter Haven, Florida) en route to the first of McBride’s two PBR World Championships.
PBR stopped three more times in Jacksonville. The remaining PBR Jacksonville Invitational event winners include: Travis Briscoe (Edgewood, New Mexico) – 2006; J.B. Mauney (Statesville, North Carolina) – 2008; and Eduardo Aparecido (Gouvelandia, Brazil) – 2017.
The elite PBR Unleash The Beast’s return to Jacksonville comes on the heels of one of the league’s most historic seasons. PBR was the first major professional sport in North America to return to competition in late April following the COVID-19 related shutdown, and the first to host fans in arena in mid-July with new safety protocols in place.
Throughout the landmark season, fans witnessed one of the greatest PBR athlete performances of all time.
After a seemingly unstoppable season, which included winning a league-leading seven elite tour events and 16 rounds, Jose Vitor Leme (Ribas do Rio Pardo, Brazil) went a torrid 44-for-65 covering a head-turning 67.69% of the planet’s rankest bovine athletes en route to the 2020 PBR World Championship.
The 2020 season also introduced fans to rising young gun Boudreaux Campbell (Crockett, Texas). After riding at five regular-season premier series stops, Campbell delivered a near perfect 4-for-5 showing at the 2020 PBR World Finals inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to win the sport’s most prestigious event, surge from No. 33 to No. 3 in the world, and capture the 2020 PBR Rookie of the Year honor.
The bull riding action for the PBR Jacksonville Invitational begins with Round 1 at 6:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 30, concluding with Round 2 and the championship round at 1:45 p.m. ET on Sunday, January 31. All 35 bull riders will get on one bull each in Round 1 and 2. Following Round 2 on Sunday afternoon, the riders’ individual two-round scores will be totaled with the Top 15 advancing to the championship round for one more out and a chance at the event title.
Tickets for the two-day event go on sale Monday, November 23 at 10:00 a.m. ET and start at $15. They can be purchased at VyStar Veterans Arena Box Office or online at www.ticketmaster.com.
PBR Elite Seats are available for avid fans who want an exclusive VIP experience while enjoying the world’s top bull riding circuit. These tickets offer premium seats, a question and answer presentation with some of the top bull riders and stock contractors in the world, a special photo opportunity after the event on the Can-Am Cage, and souvenir credential and lanyard. Social distancing will be practiced at all times throughout the experience.
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