OGDEN — Just add butts.
The Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo begins next week, and the event’s jazzy new stadium seating is ready and waiting to be filled with folks in Wranglers and Levis.
The rickety old bleachers on the north side of Ogden Pioneer Stadium, 668 17th St., have been replaced with new individual chair seating — courtesy of the Utah Jazz NBA team. Early this year, the Jazz gifted 7,500 of its green stadium seats to the city of Ogden. The iconic green seats had been removed during renovations to the Vivint Smart Home Arena, home of the state’s professional basketball team.
On Wednesday evening, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to christen the new seating area.
“It’s fabulous,” said Craig Bielik, director of marketing for Ogden Pioneer Days. “It changes the whole look of the arena. The nice green color matches nicely with the background and the trees. They’re shiny and new, and they look safe.”
And not only do the new seats look safe, they are safe.
Dave Halverson, Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo director, said for more than 50 years the bleachers on the north side of the stadium were essentially the stuff of wooden planks and metal poles.
“We had 3,500, 3,600 people basically on scaffolding,” Halverson said. “We lost a few fingernails — and pulled out a few hairs — every time the announcer said ‘Stomp your feet!’”
That entire north side came down, replaced by a brand new galvanized aluminum grandstand, upon which 3,500 of the green Jazz seats were affixed. They’ve also added 525 box seats right at the fence, and another 92 handicapped-and-companion seats.
Overall, there are a few fewer seats in the stadium, but not many.
“We did have to meet new standards, so we lost a few seats,” Halverson said. “Hey, but they all have armchair cupholders now.”
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Bielik added that it will now be much easier to get in and out of the north-side seating, as a couple of aisles have been added to the grandstand.
“With the old bleachers, you could only get in or out on each end,” he said. “So now you don’t have to climb over everybody.”
And there are now handrails. Bielik said that was one of the issues with the bleachers in the past — there were no handrails.
What’s more, the north-side seats are now reserved.
“In the past, to get a good seat you had to come early — and it was pretty hot,” Bielik said. “Now, your seat’s there waiting for you.”
The refurbished Ogden Pioneer Stadium seats about 10,000 people. Halverson said they have another 4,000 of the green Jazz seats in storage; those will be added to the stadium in coming years.
This year’s Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo begins July 19 and continues nightly — except Sunday — through Pioneer Day, July 24. Tickets range from $7 to $30, available through smithstix.com.
“It about takes your breath away,” Halverson said of the new look to the stadium. And while he admits the shiny grandstand with the green seats does somewhat change that well-worn, Old West charm of the old stadium, the most important optic didn’t change.
“One of the big parts of our rodeo is the setting,” Halverson said. “And the new seating doesn’t change that beautiful setting with the mountains in the background.”
Besides, as director of the rodeo, Halverson says he’ll give up a little rustic ambiance to get spectators off that old scaffolding.
“I tell you what: I’ll sleep a lot better knowing rodeo fans are on a nice, safe I-beam galvanized structure,” he said. “Whether the old stadium has lost its mystique or not, it probably added five years to my life.”