Rodeo Arena Design Guide
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Before you can prepare a rodeo design it is valuable to review the following questions.
What rodeo events do you plan to host in your rodeo arena?
- Saddle bronc riding
- Bareback bronc riding
- Bull riding
- Calf roping
- Team roping
- Steer wrestling
- Barrel racing
- Chuckwagon racing
- Mini-chuck racing
- Pole bending
- Ranch sorting
- Cutting horse
- Team penning
- Pleasure riding
- Working cow
- Round pen / lunging
Each rodeo event has its own specific design requirements. These requirement may impact the:
- Arena size
- Height and strength of your rodeo panels
- Stock penning requirements
- Arena access requirements
- And of course, any specific stock chutes you may need
As you add events you will need to alter the design of the arena to ensure all events can be run safely and efficiently.
What kind of rodeo arena panels and gates should you use?
The height, length, and strength of the arena panels you use depends largely on your arena program.
Panel and gate height:
- 5’ high panels and gates for timed events
- 6’ high panels and gates for rough stock events
Note: when you have a rodeo arena that hosts both timed event and rough stock events you may use a variety of panel heights. Any areas that may hold rough stock should be 6’ high. All other areas may be built with 5’ high panels.
Using longer length panels will decrease the installation price per linear foot. Longer panels are however more difficult to handle. Smooth, curved corners are best made with shorter length panels.
Panel Weight (strength):
Panels with a larger tubing wall thickness are heavier and stronger. If your arena perimeter panels are not likely to see any damaging contact you can use lighter weight panels (e.g., barrel racing). If however you have and rough stock events you will want to go with a heavy weight panel that can absorb contact.
The longer the gate, the longer it takes to open and close the gate. Long gates (12’ or longer) are best used for general access such as for arena grooming vehicles. Short length gates (12’ or shorter) are best for stock access and sorting.
Will your rodeo arena host amateur or professional riders?
If you’re rodeo facility will be hosting inexperienced riders you may need to adjust your arena design to ensure those competing can perform their event safely and successfully. For example, timed event riders may require a longer arena to catch their calves/steers. Similarly, barrel racers may require more room beyond the barrel to ensure they can round the barrel safely without risk of colliding with the arena perimeter.
What are the safety issues your rodeo arena needs to address?
As you vary how people use your arena, you will also need to vary how you safeguard those users. For example, if you are building a practice roping arena for personal use only, your focus will be solely on minimizing your risk of injury. If however, you are building a rough stock arena that may have spectators standing along the fence line, you will need to consider their safety as well.
The safety concerns of each of your arena users will impact the design and construction of your rodeo arena. These safety concerns may impact:
- Where you locate, or how stable, your arena support posts need to be?
- If you need to ensure access to your rodeo stock is restricted
- If you need to ensure your rodeo stock will be securely contained throughout their processing?
- If you require arena access for emergency services (EMS)?
How important is your ability to process your livestock quickly?
For private arenas, you may not care if you need to take a few extra minutes to load an animal into your chute. If however you have people paying to watch your rodeo event, they will appreciate the attention you invest in creating an arena design that allows stock to be safely and efficiently sorted and prepared for each event.
The following features will help increase the safety and efficiency of your rodeo facility.
- Add a return alley
- Add a calf/steer sorting arrow
- Add a stripping chute
- Increase the number of bucking chutes
- Locate the stock pens for better flow
Return alley: One can run your calves and steers from one end of your arena to the other with the assistance of a couple of good riders. This however will interrupt the rodeo events that the public came to watch. An external return alley will allow for the free movement of stock without interrupting your rodeo.
Sorting Arrow: If you’re rodeo employs a draw to decide which steer or calf your contestant will challenge, then you can benefit from the efficiency of a sorting arrow. The sorting arrow makes it easy for your rodeo hands to quickly sort and cut a specific animal for a specific rider.
Stripping Chute: Stripping chutes come in a variety of sizes specific to the type of stock that will be processed in the chute. They provide a contained chute that makes it easier to remove rigging from the stock after they have performed.
Bucking Chutes: If your event includes a large number of rough stock participants, you will benefit from having extra bucking chutes. Having additional bucking chutes allows other chutes to be getting loaded and prepared for the next rider at the same time that a rider is preparing for their ride.
Stock pens: locating your stock pens optimally, will help your livestock exit the arena quickly, with less risk to rodeo clowns, bullfighters, and pick-up riders. Well planned stock pens will also make it easier to move stock.
What are your rodeo stock penning needs?
If your arena is for personal use you may have minimal penning requirements. If however you are hosting multiple events, with multiple stock varieties, multiple stock providers, and run over several days, your penning requirements may represent a significant portion of your entire rodeo facilities.
If your rodeo stock is being provided by a stock contractor, we highly recommend you discuss your needs with your stock contractor before you begin to layout your stock pens.
What are your stock needs:
- Number of calves
- Number of steers
- Number of bucking horses
- Number of bucking bulls
- Other rodeo stock requirements (sheep, etc.)
What are your stock contractor(s) needs:
- Number of pens
- Number of stock/pen
- Do you need pens with access to feed and water?
- Do you need load-in, load-out facilities?
What kind of vehicle access do you require to your rodeo site?
Do you require separate vehicle access for
- Rodeo stock providers
- Rodeo competitors
- Rodeo footing maintenance equipment
- Viewing public
- Emergency vehicles
Will your vehicle access needs impact the layout of your rodeo facilities?
- Where do you locate your loading chute?
- Where should your arena grooming equipment enter your arena?
- Where will your barrel racers enter the arena?
How will people walk from one location to another through your rodeo facility?
- How will the public move from the parking area to your bleacher seating?
- Do you need to control public access to your stock pens?
- Can your stockmen and rodeo hands, move safely and efficiently?
Once you have established the basic layout of your arena and penning, it is a good idea to map out how the various users of your rodeo facilities will move across your site. This simple step will ensure those who use your facilities will not be required to climb fences or walk unnecessary distances to enjoy your event.
Will the grade of your landscape where your rodeo facility is located have an impact on the quality of your rodeo?
A properly graded site will drain rainfall efficiently. This will provide safer conditions for contestants, and provide spectators with better footing for getting around your venue.
Will the orientation of your arena impact the participants or spectators?
Consider the orientation of your arena and how sunlight may impact the events you are hosting, at the times these events will be run. A roper does not want to ride directly towards a setting sun. The same goes for the calf or steer.
Additional Design Resources