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A PBR competitor rides at one of the closed to spectator events in Oklahoma recently. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDY WATSON, BULL STOCK MEDIA

July event will mark return of fans to PBR competition

By Brandon Walker

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – With three closed-to-spectator events under their belt and another month of events following the same structure, PBR is preparing to welcome the return of fans July 10-12 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Following an unprecedented hiatus from competition of more than five weeks due to COVID-19, the Professional Bull Riders tour began their return to competition by hosting events without spectators in attendance on April 25. After compiling and adjusting safety guidelines from the closed events, PBR is ready to take the next step in their return to competition.

For three nights the Denny Sanford Premier Center will play host to the Monster Energy Team Challenge Championship, marking another trailblazing PBR competition. The event will also become the first held at the Premier Center since the pandemic broke out.

“We understand that not only the eyes of the community, the region, but our industry will be on us as to how we take care of our business and take care of fan safety and expectation,” said Denny Sanford Premier Center General Manager Mike Krewson. “We’re certainly excited for that opportunity so that other people can take what we’re doing, what we’ve done, and translate to their events and [their] venues.”

Krewson also said this will be one of the first competitions in the United States allowing spectators to attend. PBR Commissioner Sean Gleason described that becoming the first sport to hold events and bring spectators into the mix wasn’t a competition with other major sports leagues and that safety is the top priority.

“In Oklahoma, I was thankful our plan was able to bring our cowboys, stock contractors and crew back to work. And now, looking ahead to Sioux Falls we are glad to welcome fans back into the arena to enjoy the sport they love,” Gleason said. “Personally, what it means most to me is I’m proud of our team’s accomplishments during the most challenging period of my professional career.”

PBR and the Premier Center collectively laid out detailed safety guidelines for the July event which were first considered and approved by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, the City of Sioux Falls as well as the ownership of the Premier Center.

“We feel we have a very good plan in place, but we still obviously will reserve the right to tweak what we feel as we get closer to the event date,” Krewson said.

Among the lengthy list of guidelines, the plan involves filling the 6,000-seat arena to no more than 60 percent occupancy, restricting bathroom occupancy, providing masks to all in attendance, socially distanced seating sections, implementing crowd flow methods, and eliminating points of contact when possible such as encouraging card purchases at concessions and virtual tickets rather than hard copies.

“PBR drafted our ‘Be Cowboy Safe,’ fan protocols and ASM, the arena operator, has developed its Venue Shield program. We essentially married both plans for the Sioux Falls fan protocols,” Gleason said.

Recently Sioux Falls began allowing businesses to function without restrictions. The relaxation of restrictions permits the Premier Center to fill every seat with a spectator, but PBR as well as Krewson and the Premier Center are choosing to tread lightly. 

“Legally there won’t be any restrictions. We could be at 100 percent capacity. We will probably be at around 60 percent, just to ere on the side of safety,” Krewson said.

While spectators may elect to watch from the socially distanced seating area, there will also be a “normal” seating section that will allow spectators to sit as they would’ve before the pandemic occurred. Masks will be provided to all spectators that enter the arena, but not required to be worn, except by Premier Center and PBR personnel.

“I’m proud of how the CBS telecasts have still captured an inherently very exciting sport featuring the best cowboy athletes and rankest bulls in the world,” Gleason said. “That said, there’s nothing like the atmosphere of a PBR event with fans in the building. It’s an understatement to say we look forward to Sioux Falls for the championship weekend of the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge July 10-12.”

Gleason said that PBR is following all guidelines provided by governing bodies and adjustments may be made to any PBR event during the pandemic. 

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