Photo by Larry Trimm

By Dave Rogers

For The Record

It’s being called the largest paying sports event in Southeast Texas history and why not?

If Chad Havens, the owner-operator of Orange’s T2 Arena, is right in his prediction of entrants for the three-day World Series of Team Roping event that he’s hosting beginning Friday, his cowboys could take home close to $250,000.

“When a guy can put up $300 and go have a chance to win $10,000 in one classification and you have multiple classifications a day, they made it a business you could really go and make money,” said Speedy Williams, an eight-time team roping champion who teaches individual lessons at T2.

“It used to be a hobby where you’d go and rope all day and maybe break even.”

Havens, owner of Bridgefield Electrical Services, explains that WSTR events have an 80 percent payback of entry fees and he expects 500 two-man roping teams to compete in eight classifications over the three days.

With each two-man roping team pays $600 to enter an event, 500 teams would equal $300,000 in entry fees. If you pay out 80 percent of that, you’re at $240,000.

“We had 950 teams here last July and we’re expecting this one to be bigger,” Havens said. “The first and second place teams in each classification earn qualifications to the World Series Grand Finale Dec. 10-16 in Las Vegas.

“Last year, Las Vegas paid out $10,468,000.”

Hence the demand for roping events like this weekend’s in Orange.

“We have a seven-acre [parking] lot and it will be absolutely covered if nobody shows up to watch,” Havens said. “We expect 1,000 people on any given day, counting the ropers and their families.

“They’ll be eating breakfast and dinner in town, having drinks. A lot of people sleep in their trailers, but there will be a lot of hotel rooms sold, too.”

T2 Arena, also known as Tin Top Arena, is a 96,000 square-foot covered arena located at 3810 Old Peveto Road.

Team roping is similar to calf roping, in that it’s a timed event, the animals race from a starting chute and it requires riding and roping skill.

But the target is a steer weighing 450 to 550 pounds and it must be roped by both teammates.

The first, the “header,” ropes the steer around the neck and takes control of the animal before the “heeler” has to rope both its back legs.

In WSTR roping, each team ropes four head and the team with the fastest aggregate [total] time wins. WSTR has eight categories or classifications, based on the skill rating of the ropers and an age requirement of 21, except for an open category.

Roping begins at 1 p.m. Friday with competiton in three categories, at 9 a.m. Saturday with roping in four categories, and at 9 a.m. Sunday with roping in three categories.

Havens said he began team roping in the ninth grade, soon switching to steer wrestling before marriage and business put his rodeo days on ice.

He says he resumed team roping in 2008.

By that time, Williams, a native of Florida, had won his eight straight Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association team roping titles (from 1997-2004) before he and his partner stopped competing to be with their families.

“My father was a cowboy and we always had a bunch of horses, so I grew up roping from a young age,” Williams said.

“After 2004, I didn’t want to compete full-time any more. “I just teach.”

His favorite student is his daughter. But he makes his living from teaching others.

“A lot of golfers have a coach that helps them. It’s the same thing with roping. You have video. You watch it and eliminate the mistakes that happen,” Williams said.

Team roping is popular, Havens said, because “it’s more body-friendly than probably any other rodeo event. The career of a team roper can span generations.”

Said Williams: “I know a guy in his 80s who’s still competing.”

The appeal is widespread, Havens said.

“It appeals to a lot of demographics, from your working class cowboys to wealthy people,” he said.

“You can put as much money into it as you want.”

And what’s the secret to being successful at it?

“There’s a lot of fundamentals,” Havens said.

And this weekend, they will all be on display — a lot — at T2 arena.