By TIM HEARDEN
REDDING, Calif. - Bennett Gooch and a few other chairmen of local pro rodeos were recently looking for ways to highlight the stars of their sport.
So they developed the idea of a "Champions Challenge," in which the world's top performers in bull riding, calf roping and other events would square off in a series of televised competitions.
The Redding Rodeo will be the site of the first of four such challenges on May 18, sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Others will be held later in the year at a rodeo in Florida and two in Texas.
"We wanted people to know who's coming to town," Gooch said. "For us along with our sponsors, we wanted more of a guarantee, so we came up with the 'Challenge of Champions' format."
The competitions will be televised by the cable channel Great American Country, which will air Redding's event on July 7 and again on July 13. The tour may expand to more than a dozen cities next year, Gooch said.
Participants will include the top seven contestants in the 2012 standings in each event, plus this year's leaders and the host rodeo's defending champions. In all, 10 contestants will compete in each of the eight rodeo disciplines, Gooch said.
"We're trying to bring bigger and better things here," said Bruce Alexander, a Redding Rodeo Association member.
Gooch likened the new tour to NASCAR, where the top racers can be expected at marquee events week after week. Organizers hope their tour will develop household names within rodeo.
The competition comes on the 25th anniversary of bull-riding champion Lane Frost's seven-stop "Challenge of the Champions" with legendary bucking bull Red Rock in 1988. Frost rode the bull to a full 8 seconds for the first time at the Redding Rodeo.
Gooch acknowledged the names are similar but said the two promotions are unrelated.