The cancelation of the College National Finals Rodeo in June due to the COVID-19 pandemic will damage central Wyoming's tourism economy to the tune of nearly $2 million, the head of the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said in a prepared statement on Wednesday.

"The loss of this year's CNFR is significant throughout Casper and Natrona County," Brook Kaufman said.

The CNFR has a local annual economic impact of $1.9 million from the visitors and participants outside Casper, said Kaufman, who last year reported the total impact of tourism in Natrona County to the Casper City Council.

The CNFR was scheduled for the week of June 14-20.

"With that in mind, we know that the health, safety and well-being of the athletes, their families, the fans and our residents is of the utmost importance and we look forward to welcoming CNFR back to Casper - where it will be stronger than ever - in 2021," she said.

The CNFR said in a prepared statement that the student athletes, coaches, schools, parents and fans grieve the loss of this special event. "This is unprecedented. May we all heal, extend grace, and recover to a better world."

Meanwhile, it will hurt.

"This is a devastating thing," said Renee Penton-Jones, general manager of the Ramkota Hotel, 800 N. Poplar St.

The Ramkota will lose about $140,000 in room cancelations and another $80,000 to $90,000 in canceled food and beverage services, Penton-Jones said.

The 230-room Ramkota is the host hotel for the CNFR and donates 13 rooms for the CNFR staff, and had sold 120 rooms for the week, Penton-Jones said. The Ramkota had sold 200 rooms for the final nights, she added.

Besides those directly affected by the rodeo's cancelation, the hotel will lose business from companies that schedule meetings in mid-June so their employees can attend the CNFR, she said.

The hotel has had to lay off 63 employees, Penton-Jones said.

The rodeo cancelation will have effects statewide, Penton-Jones said.

International tourists including those from Germany and Italy will attend the rodeo and then travel to Devils Tower, Yellowstone National Park and other Wyoming destinations, she said.

"Wyoming is going to understand what tourism does deliver," she added.

The Casper Events Center will suffer even larger losses, its general manager Brad Murphy said. "It's tough."

The Events Center stands to lose about $400,000 in ticket sales alone, not counting another estimated $100,000 in losses from food and beverage service cancelations, Murphy said.

In 2019, the venue sold 25,546 tickets, he said.

So far this year, the Events Center already has sold 675 season tickets to the CNFR, which times six days totals 4,275 tickets, Murphy said. Most of the CNFR tickets are sold closer to the event when student athletes know that they and their families will be coming, he said.

The Casper Events Center hasn't had to lay off any employees yet, Murphy added.

Despite the hardship to the Events Center and the community, he said the cancelation was the right thing to do.

"We have to make sure safety comes first," Murphy said.

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