Professional Bull Riders (PBR) is all grown up and ready for “Built Ford Tough Rumble in the Rockies” May 2 and 3 at the Broadmoor World Arena.
Colorado has been the home of the world’s premier bull riding circuit since its inception. Established in 1992, Professional Bull Riders’ (PBR) first official workplace was nothing more than a rented cubicle in an office in the US Bank building on the corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs. In 1994, the 20 bull riders who established the PBR with nothing more than $1,000 each in their pockets performed in the first PBR World Finals.
Following the success of the first year, the fledgling organization hired Californian Randy Bernard as CEO. He accepted the job, admitting he had no idea what he was getting himself into. Bernard worked from a folding chair, card table and one phone line. "I learned everything from rolling up my sleeves and jumping in," Bernard said in the documentary film “This is Not a Rodeo.”
“We started with just a portion of one small office and within a few years we had three floors,” said Cody Lambert, PBR co-founder and livestock director.
Though the offices were in the heart of Colorado Springs, the PBR didn’t hold its first Built Ford Tough Series event in the market until 2001. The Broadmoor World Arena played host to the tour then and will again in May, making 2015 the second consecutive year the PBR will visit Colorado Springs after a nine-year absence.
Some of the PBR’s most celebrated World Champions claimed the PBR Colorado Springs event title. Three-time PBR World Champion Adriano Moraes (1994, 2001, 2007) won the event three times (2001, 2002 and 2005). Two-time World Champion Justin McBride (2005, 2007) tied with Moraes in 2001. The 2002 World Champion Ednei Caminhas won the event in 2004, while Wiley Petersen claimed the title in 2003. The 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes looks to return this year to defend the Colorado Springs event title after winning the event in 2014.
Colorado Springs has undoubtedly seen some big moments in PBR history. In 2003, eventual two-time PBR World Champion Chris Shivers (2000, 2003) matched up against eventual three-time PBR World Champion Bull Little Yellow Jacket (2002-04) in the Bud Light Million Dollar Bounty, presented by Ford Trucks. “That’s the biggest moment I remember,” Lambert said about the matchup. But the entertainment started before the two even entered the arena.
Little Yellow Jacket and Shivers stayed at the Broadmoor Hotel. Shivers was obviously in one of the hotel rooms, while the bovine athlete had a personal pen inside a tent shaded from the sun. The tent was set up next to Cheyenne Lake and featured an impressive chandelier hanging the ceiling.
The ride was to take place after Round 1 of the event on Friday night. Just before Round 1, however, several bulls, including Little Yellow Jacket, escaped through an opening in the arena’s back pens. The bulls got as far as I-25, but PBR pick-up man James DeBord and the late Greg Crabtree, a PBR bullfighter, chased them down on horseback. Crabtree got Little Yellow Jacket turned around in short order. “He went right back in where he was supposed to,” Lambert said. “He was so smart and loved (bucking) so much he just turned around and went back in.”
That night, after bucking off Shivers, Little Yellow Jacket circled the arena with his head held high, reveling in his victory and posing for photographs. The ride lasted only 1.5 seconds.
That was 12 years ago, and since then, the PBR has grown. Each January, fans flock to Madison Square Garden to watch the world’s best compete, and the PBR bulls have bucked in iconic spots like Times Square; AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys; on the beach in Huntington Beach, Calif.; and recently on the renowned Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere of 20th Century Fox’s major motion picture adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks best-selling novel “The Longest Ride.” The PBR not only acted as technical advisors and producers of the film’s bull-riding scenes, but the PBR’s bull riders acted and performed as stunt doubles for the film’s star, Scott Eastwood.
PBR continues moving forward on the business side, as evidenced by its recent ownership change. WME|IMG, global leader in sports, fashion and entertainment, announced Wednesday it would be adding PBR to its portfolio. A majority share in the PBR was first purchased in 2007 by Spire Capital, a New York-based private equity firm. In January, PBR announced Spire desired to sell its share of the company.
The recent sale means the sport is moving up and anticipating international expansion. PBR operates offices and/or events in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. A 2013 Forbes.com article declared the PBR the fastest-growing sport in America. “It still feels like the PBR is a new thing compared to bull riding itself,” Lambert said. “The past 22 years went by in a hurry. I was in the later part of my career when we started it, but it feels like it has flown by.”