Zach Bane has one certainty about Kootenai County residents: They love their rodeo.
"Every year for our fair rodeo, we sell out the seats," said Bane, chair of the rodeo committee for the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo. "It goes to show the community is very supportive of rodeo."
Now arena addicts can expect even more thrills.
The Kootenai County Fairgrounds has been chosen to host the Professional Western Rodeo Association's circuit finals rodeo for the next three years, fairgrounds officials recently announced.
The two-day rodeo - offering events like bareback riding, steer wrestling and saddle bronc riding - lures elite competitors from across the region, Bane said.
So hosting the popular event is expected to both promote the fairgrounds and attract more tourism to Coeur d'Alene, he said.
"It will be great for the economy, having a two-day rodeo. It will certainly bring in lots of contestants, their families and friends," said Bane, also a member of the fair board. "And it will be entertainment for the locals."
The Pro West circuit spans Idaho, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. The finals rodeo, scheduled for Oct. 4 and 5 at the main arena, will feature more than 200 competitors.
Dane Dugan, fairgrounds general manager, said the office is already fielding calls from people asking for tickets, which won't go on sale until May 1.
"It will impact our hotels and restaurants and everyone else that's in our community," Dugan said of the rodeo, adding that the fairgrounds has never hosted the competition before, to staff's knowledge. "We're able to fill 2,200 plus in our grandstands. There will be two performances, and we hope to fill both of them up."
Ticket prices have not been set yet.
Recent improvements to the arena helped snag the contract, Dugan said.
Thanks to donations and volunteer labor, the arena boasts a new announcer stand, new gates and new roping chute.
"We have a very active committee that recruits volunteers and works really hard," Dugan said.
That's not all that made the venue appealing. Under the contract, Pro West gets to use the fairgrounds for free, Dugan said.
Pro West and the fairgrounds will split ticket sales, he added.
"This isn't necessarily about making millions of dollars," said Dugan, who said the circuit finals were recently held in Yakima, Wash. "We want them to be in Coeur d'Alene."
Pro West board President Russ Cramer stated that Coeur d'Alene was "the clear choice" of three possible locations for the finals rodeo.
"The venue itself is fantastic," Cramer wrote in an email, touting the covered and spacious seating. "The community support in Coeur d'Alene is obvious as well, already supporting a successful rodeo in August."
Pro West has more than 600 members, Cramer added. Every summer, they travel and compete in 50 rodeos to qualify for the circuit finals.
"Yes, competition is tough, and just qualifying is an accomplishment," Cramer stated.
Pro West has been producing rodeos in the Inland Northwest since 1967.
Post Falls resident Jacob Paul, a Pro West competitor for about three years, said participating in the finals rodeo will be much easier with the event held around the corner.
"I think it's really cool they moved it over here into Idaho," the 18-year-old said. "I think the citizens of Coeur d'Alene will have a good time at it."
Jacob has been roping since he was 3, he said. He was introduced to rodeo competition by his father Dave, who competed in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for a decade.
Training with a coach, Jacob competes in high school rodeos as well as Pro West rodeos, he said.
"Pro West is a great organization for kids coming out of high school, looking to get into the next step up into the rodeo world," he said. "You're competing with guys from all over the northwest and Idaho and Oregon, and they're some of the (professional rodeo) guys."
The finals rodeo offers a show that most people don't see every day, Jacob said.
But he likes it for a different reason.
"What makes it the best is just picking up the first-place check and seeing all your buddies," he said.