SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Rain has forced the cancellation of Friday's historic opening night of the Cal Poly Rodeo in Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Steady precipitation throughout the day forced event organizers to call off the action.
It was a disappointing development for an event that has been widely anticipated for several months. However, weather permitting, Saturday's rodeo performance is still on schedule.
When the action does finally begin, there will be plenty of excitement among contestants and spectators alike.
"We're taking the rodeo from the practice arena to Spanos Stadium, where we can accommodate 11,000 a night, as opposed to about 3,000 at this particular location," said Grant Kirkpatrick, senior director of development, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
Now in its 77th year, the Cal Poly Rodeo, which is held during Open House, has never before taken place in Spanos Stadium.
"To build this rodeo on grass and host it in a stadium of that caliber is something is rarely done in college rodeo and rivals many of the big pro rodeos across the nation," said Cal Poly rodeo coach Ben Londo.
Londo said the idea to move the event from the smaller on-campus arena to the stadium has been in the works for more than a year.
"Moving into Spanos was no easy feat," said Londo. "It took countless hours of planning and logistics. We brought in some of the best dirt guys that do this for big rodeos, pro rodeos across the country to bring this in to showcase these athletes."
The transformation of the football and soccer stadium to rodeo arena began on Wednesday night.
"There is thousands of yards of filter fabric that went down onto the field first," said Kirkpatrick. "Thousands of plywood sheets that went over that top of that and then something like 2,000 cubic feet of dirt, about 200 truck loads of dirt that went into the stadium."
Kirkpatrick added funding for the rodeo has come from a variety of sources.
"Ticket sales have offset a lot of," Kirkpatrick said. "Donations, sponsorships. We got a fantastic response from the local community as far as sponsorship dollars, and really volunteerism. Most of the folks that made this happen and set this up are essentially volunteers."
For the contestants, it's a rare and for many, one in lifetime chance to participate in a venue the size of Spanos Stadium.
"It's huge," said Cal Poly's Rachel McCarthy. "Just being able to compete in this big of a rodeo. The magnitude is bigger than anything we ever experienced and that's something that is really exciting."
McCarthy noted many on campus and throughout the community may not even be aware collegiate rodeo exists, so the event is giving the team an unprecedented chance to showcase the sport.
"I think this is a great opportunity to come and experience that and kind of see what we do on a daily basis because a lot of people have never seen it before," said McCarthy.
Now, with Friday's cancellation, rodeo organizers are hoping Mother Nature will cooperate on Saturday. Fortunately, the forecast is calling for drier conditions.
"We've taken several precautions to handle this rain," said Londo. "Last night, we got in there and put thousands of square feet of plastic and we tarped off that entire arena to keep it dry. We'll pull the tarps off right before the performance, work it up, have a rodeo."
Despite a disappointing start, those with the Cal Poly Rodeo team are hoping for a strong finish. They're also hoping the rodeo in Spanos Stadium will become an annual event.
The Cal Poly Rodeo will be held Saturday, April 8 at 5:30 p.m. For tickets, visit the Cal Poly Ticket Office online.