WestWorld looks to build on a record year

WestWorld of Scottsdale is chomping at the bit to break the 1 million attendance mark next year. (Courtesy of WestWorld)

Last year proved to be a banner year for WestWorld of Scottsdale as the facility set new records. 

After seeing record attendance in 2019 that moved nearly a million bodies in and out of the facility, 2020 saw fewer people but more horses gallop into the facility. 

“We had more horses last year than we’ve ever had before,” said WestWorld general manager Brian Dygert. “We were excited in 2019 because 917,000 people came through WestWorld in 2019 and we were all kind of chomping at the bit because we were going to break a million people.” 

Although the pandemic disrupted WestWorld’s attendance numbers, the facility still saw 600,000 people enter last year and “every other category broke records” according to Dygert. 

“We’re on the third record-setting balanced fiscal operational game plan and that’s been 30 some years in the works from a city level,” Dygert said. “We had a summer that was a busier summer than ever before.” 

In the past year, more than 70 events at WestWorld spanned 579 event days at the facility, attracting an array of vastly different activities and attractions from a sewing expo, the Abilities Expo for the disability community, fitness and powerlifting competitions, equine, car and motorcycle events along with the city’s annual indoor/outdoor 4th of July celebration, Scottsdale 4th. 

A more notable event made its return in June as the NRCHA Western Derby welcomed more than 1,400 entries and 800 horses – nearly a 30 percent increase in entries from the previous year. 

The city also had a trickle-down effect as attendees flocked to local hotels and restaurants in the neighboring areas. 

Although the venue prides itself on holding events that could not fit elsewhere, WestWorld attributes its renovated equestrian center, which was expanded by 300,000 square feet and renovated back in 2014, to its success. 

“It’s as the saying goes ‘if you build it, they’ll come,’” said WestWorld business manager Gloria Storms.

“With building the Tony Nelson Equestrian Center and climatizing all of this space to where a horse can start over here in the South Hall, go down ramps to warm up in the paddock come up a ramp and go compete in the North Hall, that’s changed our whole calendar,” she said, adding:

“A highlight for me would be seeing May and June fill up with horse events, specifically in the North Hall.” 

The calendar is filling up quickly as Dygert and Storms are already receiving calls for hosting events at the space next summer and the two have landed a big contract with the National Reined Cow Horse Association has signed on to host its DT Horses Western Derby for the next three years at WestWorld. 

However, event producers are still figuring out ways to utilize the full potential of the unique venue.

 “It takes time for event producers, it doesn't matter the industry, to think of doing things differently when a market creates an opportunity that didn't exist before,” Dygert said.

“So, in all of our spaces, it doesn’t matter equine or non-equine, the fact that we have this climate control event facility from the Fourth of July event to dressage and cow horses in June to Europa games, the Pinterest event, the sewing piece,” she continued.

“It takes those kinds of event producers time to figure out new ways of doing stuff when it didn’t exist before.” 

Because the interest is spiking so high for events at WestWorld, the city is pushing toward even more cooperation between the venue and new multi-use sports fields being built adjacent to the 386-acre complex.

The venues create a recreational and events core that make Scottsdale even more attractive to big international events, small local sports tournaments and everything in between.

Overall, the city and Storms hope to see more events and fewer slow days at the facility.

“(We want to see) more events and bigger events filling the calendar. We just want to keep going and we might take it to the next level,” Storms said. 

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