Much of the success of the Mid-Plains Community College rodeo team can be traced back to the Kiplinger Arena complex in McCook.
That’s according to Garrett Nokes, the team’s timed event coach, who said not only has the Kiplinger been a tremendous asset in terms of a practice facility, but it has also served as a valuable recruitment and fundraising tool.
The complex, located near the intersection of highways 6 and 83, is a division of the Red Willow County Fairgrounds.
It has served as the headquarters for MPCC’s timed event competitors for the past four years.
“We are just starting our sixth year of college rodeo in McCook,” Nokes said. “We used the Kiplinger periodically to begin with — renting it when needed, but there was no formal agreement with the fairgrounds. As our relationship grew, the fair board agreed to let us start building a boarding facility at the west end of the fairgrounds.”
Thanks to the help of boosters and the support of the community, more than $25,000 was raised, and a 100-foot facility with 10 runs was constructed. The team officially moved onto the fairgrounds in the fall of 2015.
“We outgrew the boarding facility the first year it was useable because we ended up with 12 timed event kids,” Nokes said. “In the fall of the 2016-17 school year, the Tom and Alice Kiplinger Foundation agreed to triple the size of our boarding space. We ended up with about 300 feet total and now have 12 10-foot by 60-foot runs and 10 20-foot by 80-foot runs.”
The Alice arena was also constructed at that time, and it soon became home to the rodeo team’s practices.
The fact that the arena is heated in the winter is enticing for collegiate athletes hoping to take their skills to the next level.
“When we’re not in the outdoor arena, we are in the Alice arena,” Nokes said. “It has been instrumental in our recruitment efforts because it allows our timed event kids to keep active all year long. Being able to practice in a climate-controlled environment is a huge asset to the program — especially when we’re competing against other schools who don’t have that option and who sometimes show up to the first spring rodeo without having had a chance to practice.”
He credits the indoor arena with increasing the number of MPCC timed event competitors to 26 last year.
“This year, I feel like I have the strongest timed event kids to ever come out of North Dakota and South Dakota, and they are on the team as freshmen,” Nokes said. “When that level of talent comes clear down here — there’s a reason. They feel like the Kiplinger puts them closer to the winter professional rodeos and gives them more opportunities to practice throughout the year, which makes them more competitive — not just for the college rodeos, but for the amateur and professional rodeos as well.”
The main Kiplinger Arena hosts two out of four of the MPCC rodeo team’s annual fundraisers — a two-day timed event jackpot in October and a two-day amateur rodeo in March, which serves as the team’s largest fundraiser of the year.
The March fundraising rodeo was the first north of the border to be approved by the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association, and the Kiplinger contributed to its selection as a KPRA rodeo of the year.
“The Kiplinger is just a phenomenal venue any way you look at it,” Nokes said. “It has allowed us to raise a lot of money for the booster committee and the things that it supports, including scholarships, practice equipment and team travel expenses. With the temperature-regulated environment, seating availability and all the holding stalls for animals, there’s no better facility than the Kiplinger to have events like those.”