The American 2023
Rodeo is one of the fastest growing professional sports, and “The American”, owned and produced by Teton Ridge, is a crown jewel event akin to MLB’s World Series. Held annually in Arlington, Texas, the competition features the world’s best equine athletes in a showdown for the largest purse in rodeo. The multi-day event boasts a full slate of disciplines…from saddle bronc…to barrel racing and steer wrestling…to the spectacle that is bull riding.
For the fans, the experience is much more than elite rodeo. The staging, lights and sound framing the competition make the American like nothing else in sports. After the dust of the competition has settled, top-level music entertainment takes the stage, creating an unrivaled western sports celebration. Each day, Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, was packed with fans, augmented by a large broadcast and livestream viewing audience.
The overall effect of the scenic and performance environment is best described as professional rodeo meets stadium rock show, a highly elevated and emotionally-charged happening.
For the second consecutive year, EVI served as a key Executive Producing and Production Partner. Under the direction of Teton Ridge Chief Brand and Creative Officer Emily Castel, EVI and a wide ranging team of professionals collaborated for months to create and optimize the plan. With extremely tight timelines, precision integration of all teams was crucial. Producers, creative directors, show designers and choreographers, technical directors, staging and technical crews, rigging teams, creative media design and production, broadcast creative and technical production, sports and competition teams, athletes, livestock providers, dirt and fencing installers, sponsorship fulfillment, music artist production management…and the list goes on…all had to be on the same page.
EVI took a lead role in the crafting a meticulously detailed production schedule, and was responsible for architecting, designing, installing, rigging and operating numerous aspects of the event including staging, lighting, sound, scenic, on-site production management, plus rodeo and entertainment show calling. Coordinating a seamless presentation with precise integration between the live show and broadcast is an especially challenging element that was executed by EVI’s expert show calling team.
Preparing a stadium for a rodeo event is a complex and sophisticated undertaking. For starters, it requires a complete surface transformation…from the lush turf of a major league diamond…to 12 inches of packed red dirt to support the crushing weight of 1,500 pound bucking bulls and broncs. Truck load after truck load, the dirt arrives, 45 in all, and over a full day the mountainous piles are packed and groomed into a smooth and beautiful surface.
The dirt installation is just the beginning of a herculean, 3 day build out that will become a super bowl-like stadium experience. Every aspect of an environment designed specifically for baseball must be altered to achieve the desired outcome.
The first step was to create a field layout that would accommodate the competition requirements, as well as a massive stage to host the nightly line-up of celebrity music entertainment. Combining rodeo competition with multiple stadium concerts presented unique challenges. In addition to the competition area itself, the pens and chutes to stage the horses and bulls have an enormous footprint. One of the biggest questions was where to put the entertainment stage.
EVI designers and engineers solved the problem by stacking the stage directly over the top of the pen and chutes area, a first for rodeo. This created a massive structure that provided a perfect entertainment platform with great audience sightlines, and also established a beautiful backdrop for the sports event. The stage structure was deliberately left raw and industrial, in tribute to the honesty and authenticity of the Western American vocabulary - as honest as a new tractor, providing food for countless tables, and as authentic as the birth of a new colt. Beyond its entertainment functionality, the engineering had to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals, handlers and athletes who would reside below it.
Capping off the stage design was a massive three-dimensional “American” Rodeo logo.
Towering 30 feet above the stage deck, this custom designed and fabricated piece of art established a powerful brand presence, becoming a scenic focal point at all times.
The outline of the “A”, an homage to the boundary that rings the rodeo arena, was activated with pixel controlled color-changing LED tape. The interior areas, representative of the competition surface itself, functioned as a giant, high-output, color changing lightbox, also LED lit. Intelligent, 24-bit color control resulted in limitless creative possibilities.
The logo was encircled from behind by a massive lighting truss equipped with automated lighting fixtures, bringing power, activation and drama to the vista. Giant, high intensity beams blasted through and around the logo, with the power and brilliance of the morning sun greeting the day.
This ‘North Star’ scenic element was framed on either side by hi-res LED walls for image mag, graphic display and media playback. As a side note, The “A” was designed in a modular way allowing it to be packed and transported for use at other events throughout the year.
Soaring above the stage was an array of trusses, raked at an angle to echo the vertical elements behind the stage and to drive the eye towards our focal point. Replete with a massive compliment of moving lights, this rig activated and energized every moment of the event with an ever changing, never repeating panorama of dynamic and exciting lighting vistas. The overall design result is a great example of how EVI creatively translates brand vocabulary into stagecraft and scenery.
One of the feature moments was a stirring acapella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, performed by crowd favorite Pia Toscano. The lighting designers for each of the musical performers, including Sheryl Crow and country music superstars Darius Rucker and Cody Johnson, enthusiastically embraced the design and incorporated its capabilities into their shows. That was a tremendous win, and allowed seamless continuity of the corporate branded presence in the stadium, which is a rare occurrence in the entertainment space.
Of additional note is the highly time-pressured choreography of setting music backline gear and sound system checking between the rodeo competition and music entertainment. Accomplishing this feat with zero time margin for error could only succeed with the top professionals in the industry.
Another facet of the event in which EVI played a crucial role was the assembly, programming and playback of all media displayed inside the stadium. Hundreds of elements had to be sequenced and served to the screens and ribbons in perfect sync with the show agenda.
Calling the show itself was a highly complex undertaking, requiring the simultaneous execution of live show cues with those being directed to the broadcast team.
The response from live show, broadcast, streaming and social media audiences has been phenomenal, all a reflection of Teton Ridge’s passionate vision and the collective producing expertise of the many teams involved. EVI is honored to have served as an Executive Producer and Lead Production Partner in 2023 and is excited to see the American continue to redefine the professional rodeo experience.