For the 17th year in a row, Professional Bull Riders returns to Sacramento this weekend.
PBR puts on a three-day show at Golden 1 Center, the third straight year the event will be held at Golden 1 Center. The shows take place Friday through Sunday.
PBR is unique as the tour goes nearly year-round across the country, much like World Wrestling Entertainment. The events run from January to November.
“It’s interesting because we are one of the only professional sports that don’t have purpose-built facilities for what we do,” said Ryan Seddon, the director of event operations and development. “What I think makes PBR very unique is that every one of our events are a little bit different. We play a lot of NBA and NHL facilities, very similar to the Golden 1 Center, but we also do AT&T Stadium in Dallas where the Cowboys play. We’re scaling up or scaling down the amount of sizzle that comes with our competition to fit the space that we’re in. So what makes PBR extremely unique is our ability to do that.”
Not only does PBR focus on finding the right venue to hold its events, but also finding their target audiences.
“Geographically, we want to make sure that we are putting our sport in front of the most eyeballs that we possibly can,” Seddon told The Bee. “I believe that we have some of the toughest athletes across any professional sport. We have some core fans spread across parts of the country that we want to make sure we’re not abandoning and we want to make sure that they have the ability to come and see the stars of PBR and the best bull riders in the world.”
The Golden 1 Center is the fourth stop of the 2020 “Unleash the Beast” tour. According to Seddon, one factor that goes into where PBR chooses to take their tour is based on past tours.
“PBR has a long history in Northern California,” Seddon said. “We were at Arco and Sleep Train Arena for a number of years. So we were very excited when the Kings started exploring building a downtown arena just because we have such a passionate and knowledgeable fan base in Sacramento.”
Another factor that impacts where the Professional Bull Riders tour will go is analytics on television and social media.
“I use a little bit of analytics from our TV ratings, seeing what markets are responding well to our CBS broadcasts,” Seddon said. “We have a very robust social media presence, (with) tons and tons of followers and engagement that way. So my social media team is able to show me where we’re getting a lot of engagement with our organic content.”
PBR has over 100 riders on its roster. Daylon Swearingen, 20, is the fourth-ranked rider in the world. Swearingen has only been on tour since 2018, but with a full season under his belt, he understands what comes with the travel schedule.
“It’s hectic,” Swearingen said about the tour travel schedule. “It’s tough, we just kind of plan it all out ourselves because we don’t really have an agent that does our travel and stuff.”
Swearingen finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019 and ranked a career-high No. 13 in the world. The “Young Gun” accomplished all that while taking college classes. Swearingen is currently in his second year of studying for an associate’s degree in land and wrath management.
Of course, competing on a tour that involves riding on bucking bulls isn’t the safest way to pay for school.
“It’s a dangerous sport,” Swearingen said. “We can’t stop it by a whistle. It all plays out and there’s so many different scenarios that can happen, but I feel like at this level, we have the best bullfighters protecting us. All the riders are in the best shape. We don’t look towards that aspect of it, but you actually have them. But I feel like just like any sport, you’re training yourself so you can prevent injuries.”
What helps the bull riders when they are bucked off a bull, are the rodeo clowns who create a distraction to get the riders to safety.
“I think the rodeo clown is kind of the entertainer,” Swearingen said. “There will be three bullfighters out there and those bullfighters are what help us when that eight seconds is up or when we fall off the bull, they distract the bull so we can get away safely. That’s a big part of it because they get us out of there safely a majority of the time.”
The risks come with rewards, of course. But the rewards have to be earned. PBR competitors don’t get paid for showing up.
“We’re in a sport where we only get paid if we win,” Swearingen explained. “So that’s a pretty cool aspect of it. We’re going up against a beast and nothing, no whistle can stop what’s going to happen if something bad happens. It’s always exciting and it always keeps you on your toes.”
If you go
Where: Golden 1 Center
When: 7:45 p.m. Friday, 6:45 p.m. Saturday, 2:45 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $15 to $150