Apr 7, 2021
Allen Rheinheimer, General Manager
Behind the Chutes with …
Allen Rheinheimer, General Manager
By Brian Hurlburt
It seems perfect timing for there to be a new leader guiding the world’s biggest and baddest rodeo following a year’s hiatus from Las Vegas due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Longtime rodeo and equestrian event expert Allen Rheinheimer has been carefully selected to lead the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo when it makes a triumphant return to Las Vegas–its rightful home–since 1985.
Rheinheimer has been a part of the Wrangler NFR since 2000, and understands the challenges that are ahead. But he is also confident in a wonderful outcome due to his experiences, but more importantly, because of the talented team that will be beside him before, during and after what many refer to as the “Super Bowl of Rodeo.”
During his career, Rheinheimer has overseen all elements of equestrian and livestock production, including many aspects of the Wrangler NFR. For nearly 20 years, he has served as the construction maintenance manager, coordinating production elements of the Wrangler NFR, including – among other responsibilities – openings and anthems, rehearsals, maintenance crews, risk management procedures and production timeline development.
His overall equestrian experience includes more than three decades as the president and owner of Showtime Jump Company, LLC, a horse show production company that services more than 25 events annually. He also serves as the production manager for the Classic Company, LLC and equestrian manager for The Hampton Classic Horse Show. Plus, he served as the technical coordinator for the FEI World Cup Jumping Finals in 2000 and 2003, the FEI World Cup Jumping and Dressage Finals in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2015, and was the show manager for the 2020 FEI World Cup Finals.
An impressive resume, indeed.
And even prior to officially overseeing equestrian shows as his occupation, horses and the equestrian lifestyle were in his blood. He grew up on Cedar Crest Farm in Indiana, which produced both top show horses and beef cattle.
Rheinheimer now will reach back on that immense experience as the caretaker of the Wrangler NFR, and also work hand-in-hand with the PRCA and Las Vegas Events, the NFR’s producer and host. His knowledge runs deep, a main reason for his hiring.
“Allen brings diverse managerial experience to the Wrangler NFR,” says Las Vegas Events president Pat Christenson. “He has been in a key production leadership position for more than 20 years. His overall understanding of the scope of the Wrangler NFR will be an important component in enhancing the production and show elements on rodeo’s biggest stage – in Las Vegas.”
The two key words for Rheinheimer and many others in 2021 are “Las” and “Vegas.” He’s already begun preparations for the return to the city that glitters, and looks forward to almost the entire city once again rolling out the VIP dirt carpet for competitors, fans, organizers and sponsors.
“I’m just excited to be back in Vegas and excited to be in the position I’m now entrusted with, and the group that we have to work with is fantastic,” says Rheinheimer. “I’m looking forward to this year.”
With the release of the first official “Behind the Chutes” blog, we thought it perfect to begin with the new leader, but as we continue, each new entry will highlight some of the key folks Rheinheimer will rely on to be successful, including new construction manager David Pickering, Allen’s brother, Stanley, Rob Hart, who oversees security, Tim Keener from Las Vegas Events, and others.
We are all excited about the return to Las Vegas, and to honor his new position, here’s an in-depth conversation with Allen as he ponders Wrangler NFR 2021:
The first thing that comes to mind for me about the new role and the 2021 Wrangler NFR is the challenge that we have ahead of us. To produce an event like this, you have to have a great group of people to work with and I believe that we have that in place. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’ve been with the rodeo since 2000 and worked my way up to this position. It’s been a great ride right up through the ranks. And working with Shawn Davis throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot. Now I am looking forward to the challenge.
What I’ve learned over the last two decades with the Wrangler NFR is a lot about production, from the inner workings of timing and everything. We produce everything down to the second and we rehearse so much of it to ensure success. I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about lighting effects and different effects that can make the difference in the mood of the whole environment and the fan experience.
The only way to make the Wrangler NFR successful down to the split second is to rehearse and ensure everyone knows their roles and jobs. We rehearse every night, and that level of preparation is key. The competition itself as far as the riding events, we’ve got it down to where we know exactly how long they take, how long it takes the rider to get prepared, how long it takes to get to the position where the competitor is ready. And then the timing of the openings and everything. We rehearse that and we change it, tweak it, do whatever we need to before the event to try and make it perfect. Everybody’s also prepared if something goes wrong, and we have plans to cover for it. It’s a lot of rehearsals; that’s the key. The more we prepare for every little instance that could happen, and the more our team is focused on those things, the better. You can’t prepare for everything, but you can certainly be prepared for anything we can think of and that certainly gives me a calmer feeling.
My first job with the NFR in 2000 was to rake around the barrels and that’s how it started. My job was 15 seconds a day, really. I raked around the barrels after the barrell racers, but I also got to observe the construction process. And I also learned that there are no small jobs when it comes to the night of the Wrangler NFR. We are as strong as our smallest link.
I believe my experience with show jumping and other top equestrian events is valuable because the experiences I’ve had over the years dealing with the top competitors and top venues across the country in horse shows is meaningful. We’ve been all over the country at the best arenas and venues. Plus, the adversity that we’ve had to overcome adds to my level of experience, which is vital in this new role. You want each event to be the best it can be and also want it to be the fairest, and having experience at so many levels is important.
As the Wrangler NFR general manager, the whole thing—everything–falls back on me. Everything from the openings all the way through the competition, to dealing with the vendors, the move in, to the livestock. There are different groups that take care of the different areas and they have been there and done that, and they’re all very responsible. But they all report to me and I need to support them so they can do the best job. Then there are the sponsorship requests and the timing of everything and making sure that everything works well within the arena and doesn’t impact the competition in any way. Plus, there’s a great deal of inventory that we have to work with and that’s all on my shoulders. Plus, there is the tear down post event processes. But I think having been there and already been behind the scenes gives me a huge advantage.
I took over as GM in March and the day after, my team and I got to right to work and startedorganizing all the vendor contracts, from the venue, to the different vendors that we use for equipment, to move in and out of the dirt, to the hay vendors, and everything else. We have also started planning how the event will be structured, the openings, and also working with Las Vegas Events and other key stakeholders to get all of the elements together. It’s an ongoing process but by September, we start getting all of our contractors selected for their jobs at the rodeo, and then organizing all of that and getting the stock selected. By the time we get very close to the rodeo, we are just fine-tuning everything.
Once we are in Las Vegas, my days will probably start at 5:30 in the morning by doing a general walk around of everything, making sure that everything is in place that needs to be in place from the night before and everything is ready to go. Then there’s meetings throughout the day: opening meetings each morning, then we move onto production meetings with everybody on the ground that has anything to do with the rodeo. At that meeting, we go through any of their needs or things we need to tweak. Then there’s meeting with different groups like judges, officials, and others to make sure everybody is on the same page and we’re doing the best for the event. Then at night, once the rodeo is over and everything’s done, we make sure the dirt is worked correctly so we can start with our opening rehearsals for the next night. So, the rehearsals are all done at night and we usually get out of there about 11:30 or midnight, or sometimes later.
My best NFR memories are about the people I’ve gotten to know over the years. I’ve become pretty good friends with many of them. It’s a great family. Also, the competition is like no other that I’ve seen in any venue or any sporting event in the world. The excitement level that the NFR brings is unmatched. it’s a true honor to be where I’m at now. To be thought of as the person that could run this event is just a true honor. I’m humbled by it.
What I am always impressed with about the NFR is how incredible the competitors are and the amazing athletes they are. From the bull riders all the way to the barrel racing, and every competitor in between. They put it all on the line every single day and night. They’re the top of the competitive edge, and they’re pushing the envelope to strive for that gold buckle. I think it’s fantastic the way they do that and how they do that.
My best description of the Wrangler NFR is that it is the highest level of competition that you’ll ever see and an unmatched excitement level. The rodeo is the place to be in Las Vegas. And the Thomas & Mack Center is the place to be. It’s an excitement like you’ll never see or experience in any other event. A lot of people that come there for the first time are just wowed by it and how it flows so nicely. It’s difficult to describe, but the excitement level in the arena is incredible.
I really don’t believe there’s a city in the world that could host the NFR like Las Vegas does. All of the amenities that they offer and everything is in super close proximity. The watch parties, the casinos, the food, the shows; Las Vegas is a destination that can put on a show like no other, and the whole town turns into a cowboy town. There’s no doubt when we come there that they just roll out the red carpet for everybody. It’s a fantastic feeling when you go around Las Vegas because of how the entire town steps up and really welcomes everybody. There’s no place in the world that can house the NFR like Las Vegas. After the year that we’ve had with 2020, that we never want to go back and do that again, but at the same time, we never want to forget what we’ve been through, I think heading back to Vegas is a fresh start. And I think that people will embrace coming back to Las Vegas.
He doesn’t wear the cowboy hat… Or the boots, but don’t let that fool you. Next to Shawn Davis, no one knows more about NFR production than Allen Rheinheimer. In 2000, after working with Allen at the FEI World Cup Jumping Finals which Las Vegas events produced, Shawn Davis recruited him to join the production team at NFR. Since then, he has been a fixture backstage, working in and around every piece of production. And now he is the boss1. Listen to NFR General Manager Allen Rheinheimer on NFR Extra