We are grateful to have been asked to provide an Economic Impact Analysis of Mansfield Park, the rodeo arena and grounds now owned by Bandera County that sits just to the west of the City of Bandera across the highway from the Medina River. Paid ticket sales for rodeos held there date back to 1923, and 95 years later rodeo is still going strong in the Cowboy Capital.
Texans know how much they like Texas, but it may surprise you to know how many people from other states and countries come here to experience Texas. They want to see cowboys, rodeo and the Hill Country - the legendary way of life that continues today. The connection to Texas culture is a strong draw - so strong that we have opportunities to evaluate the financial impacts that result from that draw on the places that serve as epicenters of authenticity.
We worked rodeo traffic for a few hours Labor Day weekend to ask folks who were arriving for the Frontier Times Ranch Rodeo where they were from and what brought them to Bandera. There were a lot of locals, a lot of Texans, a couple from North Carolina, a delegation from Ukraine, a thatcher from Ireland and two families from England whose children were not going to be happy in life until they had seen real cowboys at a real rodeo.
They were at the right place!
Like most of the rest of Texas, Mansfield Park is also changing with the times. While rodeo reigns all summer, with the Bandera PRCA rodeo kicking off the summer and the Frontier Times Ranch Rodeo closing summer every Labor Day weekend, motorcycles - a different kind of cowboy - are riding the hills by the thousands in the spring and fall. Biker Rallies of Texas hold Thunder in the Hill Country in the spring and Rumble on the River in the fall, and they turn an historic rodeo grounds into Biker City for a long weekend. Thousands of bikers from across the country converge on this Hill Country community for some of the most stunning rides the state has to offer and a party on 30 acres of land that holds an important place in the history of Texas rodeo. This kind of new use in an old space is increasingly common as Texans look to blend their modern livelihoods with the places they hold dear.
When we make decisions about the places we love - and the places that remind us of who we are - we have to weigh a lot of factors. Revenues and expenditures are not a small factor in these considerations, but they aren’t the only factor. It’s hard to capture the joy on a child’s face as they watch a cowboy ride by when your’re carrying a clipboard. It’s hard to capture the deep laughter and cajoling of lifelong friends when you’re a bystander waiting for the next vehicle to pull forward so you can record a zip code. But that’s the value that cannot be dismissed. That sense of connection and community that happens in the places that are part of Texas culture is why we hold onto the rusted pens, stone walls and grassy fields, and why budget documents and tax revenues aren’t the only way we assess economic impact.
If you have are looking for a way to measure economic impact in your community or have questions about evaluating an historic site or facility, email firstname.lastname@example.org.