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CAM-PLEX makes final preparations for National High School Finals Rodeo

CAM-PLEX Executive Director Aaron Lyles said July 6 that CAM-PLEX is striving to make the "last five minutes" with the National High School Finals Rodeo organizers an occasion of incredible customer service.

Alaska High School Rodeo Association Queen, and 2016 NHSFR queen contestant Lauren Allen checks herself in the mirror before the modeling and speeches portion of the event at the Heritage Center at CAM-PLEX in 2017. (CAM-PLEX)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — CAM-PLEX Executive Director Aaron Lyles said July 6 that CAM-PLEX is striving to make the “last five minutes” with the National High School Finals Rodeo organizers an occasion of incredible customer service.

Lyles gave an update on preparations at the July 6 Campbell County Public Land Board meeting. This year marks the 75th National High School Finals Rodeo, which brings in about 1,700 contestants and more than 10,000 guests from across the U.S. as well as a few other countries. The rodeo will take place July 16–22.

“I’m a big believer that it’s always the last five minutes you have with a customer that they remember. You can have the toughest time, but if they had the best last five minutes, that’s what they’ll take away,” he said.

Lyles said that each volunteer shift has at least one volunteer. Staff will supplement the overnight shifts that only have one volunteer, and there’s a pretty long list of people who have asked CAM-PLEX staff to inform them as the event approaches which time slots need the most assistance. Staff have been working hard to prepare for the event.

DRM and Powder River Construction have put in considerable effort, and people and businesses who haven’t previously been involved have also decided to help this year, Lyles said. For example, Applebee’s will provide food for the staff as well as hospitality.

He said the team is tired, but the goal is to ensure that as the CAM-PLEX staff head into the negotiation process, whether or not the community would like to have the event take place in Gillette for the foreseeable future and resolve challenges, it proves it’s capable of excellence and can accommodate the rodeo.

The team driving the CAM-PLEX’s master planning is preparing to present options to the National High School Finals Rodeo board of directors on July 18 to determine whether the CAM-PLEX’s ideas mesh with the board’s. The master planning team is studying what the CAM-PLEX and the surrounding area offer, the history of CAM-PLEX operations, how CAM-PLEX competes with similar facilities and industry trends to make recommendations that are economically and financially sustainable and savvy so the CAM-PLEX best benefits the area.

“Right now, it seems as though the financially pragmatic approach of not giving them [the National High School Finals Rodeo Board of Directors] everything that they’ve asked for but doing it in a way that sort of delivers a hybrid — not all mechanically controlled air-conditioned space but just to cover group type scenarios being as frugal as we’re able to — seems to be accepted from James Higginbotham, the executive director,” Lyles said.

Lyles said today, to clarify, that it seems right now that the CAM-PLEX’s approach of balancing everything the National High School Finals Rodeo has asked for along with long-term financial pragmatism is being well received.

“Instead of two fully enclosed indoor arenas, we are looking at one enclosed and one covered,” he said. “The initial feedback we have received is that it appears that this more frugal approach is acceptable to them. However, we won’t have feedback until we meet during the rodeo.”

To volunteer for the rodeo, click here. Trainings begin July 9. CAM-PLEX will provide each volunteer a T-shirt to wear during the shift and two tickets to a rodeo performance, excluding the Short Go Performance, for every eight hours worked. 

According to an email CAM-PLEX sent at 12:25 p.m. July 7, the event still needs volunteers for the following areas:

  • Horse Check-In Parking Assistants (Shifts available July 13–16)
  • Parking Group A (Shifts available July 13–16)
  • Parking Group B (Shifts available July 13–16)
  • RV Check-In Hub (Shifts available July 13–16)
  • Gate Monitor (Shifts available July 15–22)

2023 NHSFR Volunteer Training Schedule

All volunteers are asked to attend a training for each of their committees (e.g., Information Center, Horse Check-In, etc.) and one Emergency Management training. Volunteer T-shirts will be distributed following each Emergency Management training. Visit the CAM-PLEX website or the following link to update your profile, sign the waiver and register for shifts: https://www.cam-plex.com/p/nhsfr/volunteers.   

Date/Time                                                                          

Sunday, July 9CommitteeLocation
5 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.Horse Check InEast Pavilion
5:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.Emergency ManagementMorningside Park Grandstand
6 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.Ticketing and Gate MonitorsMorningside Park Grandstand
6:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.Contestant Check-InCentral Pavilion
6:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.RV Check-InEnergy Hall Parking Lot
 Monday, July 10CommitteeLocation
5:15 p.m. – 6 p.m.RV Check-InEnergy Hall Parking Lot
6 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.Information CenterMorningside Park Grandstand
6:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.Emergency ManagementMorningside Park Grandstand
7 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.Horse Check InEast Pavilion
Tuesday, July 11CommitteeLocation
5:15 p.m. – 6 p.m.RV Check-InEnergy Hall Parking Lot
5:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.Contestant Check-InCentral Pavilion
6 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.Ticketing and Gate MonitorsMorningside Park Grandstand
6:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.Information CenterMorningside Park Grandstand
7 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.Emergency ManagementMorningside Park Grandstand

Anyone with questions can contact CAM-PLEX Director of Sales and Marketing Keith Howard at 307-682-0552 or keith@cam-plex.com.

Upcoming changes

  • Lyles said in February that CAM-PLEX was able to negotiate a $7 per stall cleaning fee for the 2028 and 2029 contracts, which adds $14,000 to the bottom line and eases the process and time requirement of removing manure from the 2,000 stalls the rodeo needs for the event.
  • The Campbell County Lodging Tax Joint Powers Board has a contract with Zartico regarding tracking personal geographical and financial data during the rodeo.

Correction, July 7: The $7 per stall cleaning fee is for the 2028 and 2029 contracts, not this year’s, Executive Director Aaron Lyles said. The article above has been revised to reflect that.

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