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State rodeo finals to stay in Bannock County after dispute over fees

The Idaho Junior High and High School State Rodeo Finals will stay in Pocatello after a contract dispute over fees nearly drove the event out of Bannock County.

“You’re kidding” was the reaction many had when Bannock county announced a plan to raise the fee to use the event center for the state rodeo finals more than 600 percent.

“That fee increased from $5,000 for the use of the facility to, based on their fee schedule, over $33,000,” Chairman of the Portneuf Rodeo Committee Kelly Duffin explained.

Duffin believes that the higher fees are based off the county combining its event and wellness centers budgets.

“And so suddenly, the county decided they needed to raise funds to cover their costs,” Duffin said. “To create what their shortfall is is just impossible in that facility.”

This dispute opened the door for other towns to try and grab the event away from Pocatello.

“Well, that news spread like wildfire and people started to say “hey, we’d like the rodeo,” Duffin said.

But the county commissioners worked with the state to get a mere 50 percent increase in the cost, putting the cost of hosting the 2019 finals at around $8,500.

The new agreement keeps the finals in Pocatello for at least the next three years (2019-2021), a huge win for the community.

“Well, it’s more than just economics,” Bannock County Commissioner Steve Brown explained. “Between the junior high rodeo and the high school rodeo you’re talking about potentially a $1.5 million economic impact. So that’s significant for our local businesses, but more than that is the value of what rodeo brings into these kids lives. And so there’s gotta be a balance that we arrive to and this is the first step.”

All this over for a mere 11 days. Eight for the high school finals, and three for the junior high. But both those behind the rodeo and those in the county wanted to keep the event in Pocatello.

“We want those events so that the restaurants and the motels are busy, the businesses are busy,” Duffin said.

“It’s a good thing,” Brown explained. “It’s a really good thing, but it’s a lot of wear and tear and so that’s where the burden to the taxpayer comes in that we need to make sure we’re addressing.”

Brown says that the fees for using the Bannock County events center had previously been less than $5,000 while hosting the event costs the county tens of thousands of dollars each year.

With a deal in place, for now, the groups will keep discussing ways to continue balancing the costs of hosting the event with the fees for using the site.

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