Because I spent a large chunk of my life in Tennessee, I think some people assume that I know something about bulls and other farm animals. But the places I lived there were Nashville and Memphis, which are a lot more “City Slickers” than “Urban Cowboy.”
The truth be told, my favorite bovine encounters usually involve a bun and green chile, or alternately, a bun and other hamburger fixings. So I have to admit that when I toured the Professional Bull Riders headquarters last week, I had no clue what to expect.
Although that headquarters is located in a building at the prominent intersection of Union Avenue and the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, I’ve had the impression that PBR has a pretty low profile locally.
Whether that’s true or not I guess is a matter of perception, but I had a completely different take on the size and scope of PBR’s operations by the end of my hour-long visit with Sean Gleason, the company’s chief executive officer.
First of all, a few superficial observations: The PBR offices are full of fun and quirky decorative touches that constantly remind you of the organization’s mission.
There is, of course, the metal sculpture in front of the building of a man riding a bull. There’s another sculpture on the receptionist’s desk in the front lobby of a giant bull horn. The waiting area is stocked with bull riding magazines and the television there was tuned to a bull-riding program on the morning I visited. Knowing what I now do about PBR, it wouldn’t surprise me if that kind of programming is featured all the time.
The rest of the 33,000-square-foot space carries the same theme. There are portraits of bull riding champions on the walls, along with other artwork highlighting the sport. Gleason’s own personal office includes a display of cowboy hats. Even his dog, Ryder, who greeted me at the start of my tour, was named in homage to the sport of bull riding.
Gleason gave me a brief history of PBR’s growth and development, including the organization’s move here from Colorado Springs in 2007. Since PBR was considering much larger cities like Las Vegas and Kansas City as potential headquarters sites, I think our local leaders really pulled off a major coup in convincing the company to come here.
In the early years, PBR held some of its events in Pueblo, before the sport outgrew the available arena space. Gleason said top touring events typically are held in arenas used by National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams. It made me wish I had been around to see one of those events in Pueblo.
Gleason said PBR has about 130 employees, most of whom work here in Pueblo. But through its competitive events and television contracts, the company’s reach extends to dozens of countries around the world.
PBR controls almost every aspect of its touring events. This includes everything from TV production to printing the banners, posters and fliers used for promotion and marketing. PBR engineers even designed the timing equipment used in the bull-riding competitions.
PBR is part-owner of a company that maintains a DNA registry of bulls, which helps determine those that are genetically inclined to buck. And PBR also licenses 10 country-themed bars around the country.
The organization’s local footprint is about to expand significantly, too. Next month is the scheduled grand opening for the PBR sport performance center, located a short distance away from the headquarters along the riverwalk.
The center will be a state-of-the-art facility where performance of professional athletes can be tested and refined. The 18,000 square feet of indoor space will include workout and training rooms, private exam rooms and trainers’ offices, locker rooms, a video film room, hot and cold tubs, and a “fuel bar” and lounge where athletes can recover after their workouts.
There also will be a 2,000-square-foot outdoor workout area as well.
Gleason said the center initially will be used by athletes from many different sports, although eventually he hopes bull riding will grow to a point where its participants will be able to support the facility on their own.
Back on the riverwalk level of its headquarters, PBR is trying to find a retail or restaurant tenant to fill about 11,000 square feet of space that’s currently unused. If I were an entrepreneur, I’d certainly consider investing in a restaurant at that location.
Provided there were no items with red meat on the menu, of course.
Blake Fontenay, The Chieftain's opinion page editor, is new to Pueblo. His column, Pueblo 101, describes what it's like to see the city through the eyes of a newcomer. To make comments or offer suggestions on what he should try next, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.