Wrangler BFI Week moves to Lazy E Arena
PHOENIX, Ariz. — In about three weeks, Wrangler BFI Week will land temporarily in one of team roping’s most iconic arenas.
“The coronavirus has closed a lot of doors and changed a lot of people’s lives forever,” said Dan Wall, general manager of the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla. — the nation’s largest indoor venue devoted exclusively to Western events. “Sometimes a door closes on one side and opens on the other. Reno’s unfortunate loss is our gain. It’s one of those things that fits like a glove.”
The half-million-dollar Bob Feist Invitational — the world’s richest team roping for pros — and the half-million-dollar Wrangler Patriot 11.5 for amateurs (plus seven additional amateur ropings), were originally scheduled for June 20-25 in Reno. When the coinciding Reno Rodeo this June was cancelled, roping organizers decided to relocate June 20-24 to the Lazy E Arena, on a ranch large enough to allow plenty of distancing.
The 43rd BFI will be held on Sunday, June 21 instead of its traditional Monday, but will still follow its customary Saturday night welcome banquet. Entries for the BFI are due by June 12, and the prestigious event is limited to the first 125 paid teams. It will once again be live-streamed on WranglerNetwork.com.
“This is where team roping really took off,” said BFI Week co-owner Daren Peterson. “Ed Gaylord built this arena for hard-running steers and long scores. The 440-foot arena itself, plus the camping and stalls are great for our ropers, and fans have always loved the vendors and the infamous Cantina overlooking the boxes.”
Because of the late-date change in venue, additional entries will be taken on-site for the 9.5 and 10.5 Over 40 ropings, the 11.5 and 12.5 ropings, plus the Hooey Jr. BFI ropings and All-Girl challenge ropings — all of which have limited team counts.
The Lazy E’s climate-controlled three acres under a roof were built 36 years ago to host the National Finals Steer Roping. Over the years, the arena also hosted performances by the likes of George Strait and Reba McEntire. The Lazy E is a working ranch, having stood stallions like Coup de Kas and Mr. San Peppy, with a roster today headlined by Corona Cartel – sire of racehorses that have earned $54 million. Owner Gary McKinney is a team roper, himself.
“Mr. McKinney loves everything about the team roping industry, from the grassroots all the way to the elite level,” said Wall. “Ever since he bought the Lazy E in 2013, we’ve talked about how to create a Feist (Bob Feist Invitational) or a Strait (George Strait Team Roping Classic) or something of that nature.”
It was the Lazy E’s long arena, popular cantina and television lights that made Denny Gentry choose it for the first-ever National Finals of Team Roping in 1990, because “everyone who swung a rope knew it was the premier roping facility in the U.S.” The event in Guthrie every October for five years helped the sport explode in popularity, as the Lazy E hosted the first team roping that paid winners $100,000 and the first event that paid out a collective million dollars.
Today, the Lazy E continues to host the annual “Ironman” of professional rodeo in the bucket-list Timed-Event Championships of the World. It was held this year in March just as Oklahoma City became the epicenter of national pandemic closures when the NBA’s Thunder/Jazz game was called off just before tipoff.
“We held one of the last major events before the lockdown and then we held one of the first sporting events back, when we partnered with the PBR to bring the Las Vegas Invitational and other CBS Sports broadcasts here last month,” said Wall.
Wall credits the Lazy E’s intense safety protocols and unique property that allows quarantine of everyone on site with plenty of camping and limited access in and out. Plus, he said the governor has trusted Logan County leaders who want to bring business back to life in safe environments.
“When the BFI news leaked out, we got so many calls about tickets and calls from vendors that we didn’t even have time to get the event listed on Ticketmaster,” said Wall.
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