The rodeo is coming back to Fort St. John if a determined local businessman has anything to say about it.
After a successful rodeo in 1986, the last time Fort St. John had one was a short-lived affair in 1997 that just covered its costs, said Terry McLeod. A semi-retired entrepreneur, McLeod has already invested an estimated $2.7 million in the Fort St. John rodeo he hopes to launch June 2014.
"It'll be something that'll be here forever," McLeod said. "I think it's good for the public, I think Fort St. John needs it and it's a good influx of business for everybody here."
McLeod said people call him crazy for undertaking such a big challenge. But rodeo, he said, is part of his life he wants to share. Born and raised in Fort St. John, McLeod's family sponsors professional bull riders, and his own children are in college and high school rodeo.
"It's a lifestyle," he said. "This isn't going away."
McLeod purchased an old farm on the Swanson lumber road and has begun building his rodeo grounds, investing in bleachers to accommodate 2,700 spectators and over 300 participants. He said he plans to build a site for equipment from West Coast Amusements and a 120-site campground. The World Professional Chuckwagon Association will also host their event at the rodeo.
He told city council Monday that he is seeking donation of the recreation centre to hold a professional bull riding (PBR) event to raise funds for the eventual rodeo. He added this event will not make him money. Instead, 15 per cent of earnings will go toward building the rodeo grounds, 30 per cent will be donated to the B.C. High School Rodeo Association, 55 per cent to the Fort St. John Hospital Fund and the Cowboy Crisis Fund to help cowboys who get hurt and cannot claim worker's compensation.
McLeod expects that not only will the rodeo bring in plenty of outside capital, but that his advertising will inject money into Fort St. John's economy.
McLeod is working with Daryl Mills, 1994 World Champion bull rider from Pink Mountain, B.C. Mills is the second Canadian to win the title and was inducted into the PBR hall of fame.
Mills told council Monday the event would be a world-class event, surpassing Dawson Creek's and attracting visitors from around the globe.
"Will our rodeo be better? I'm near positive it will," Mills said.
City Manager Dianne Hunter expressed enthusiasm for the event. She said there was no doubt the community wants a rodeo, but added McLeod will have to present council with a budget at a later date before any government donations of funding or property could be made.