RIDGEDALE, Mo. – As part of the inaugural Professional Bull Riders Team Series, a new professional sports squad is headed to the southwest part of the Show-Me State: the Missouri Thunder.
The PBR Team Series features eight bull riding teams across the country, two of which will be based out of Missouri – the Missouri Thunder, based out of Ridgedale near Branson, and the Kansas City Outlaws. The Thunder will host their events at the Thunder Ridge Nature Arena at Big Cedar Lodge.
The Thunder will be led by two familiar names in the bull-riding world.
A native of Raymore, Missouri, Luke Snyder was the PBR World Event Finals Champion and Rookie of the Year in 2001. Snyder qualified for 13 World Finals throughout his career, and is a member of the PBR Ring of Honor, the most prestigious designation in bull riding.
Snyder was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Snyder chose his best friend and former travel partner Ross Coleman as his co-coach for the Missouri Thunder. Coleman also is a PBR Ring of Honor member, and appeared in 12 PBR World Finals with over 300 rides to his name.
The Thunder is owned by Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and will be marshaled by General Manager Randy Bernard, former CEO of the PBR.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him,” Snyder said of Bernard. “He’s such a great guy and such a sharp businessman. As well as Johnny of course – Johnny is a visionary and is the Walt Disney of the outdoors.”
On May 23, the PBR will host a live draft in Arlington, Texas similar to the NFL Draft, and the Thunder will have the fifth pick. Teams will consist of five bull riders, along with two alternates and three practice squads.
“Being fifth round, we’ll be a mid-range pick throughout the whole thing,” Snyder said. “We like where we’re at.”
Snyder said the organizational structure will be much friendlier to young riders trying to make it to the big stage, as opposed to having a much less-defined path like he and other veteran riders had to go through.
“It’s really investing in our future, because these guys will get more help and more direction than ever before,” he said. “As long as you’ve got great bull riders coming up and you’re putting out effort there, then the sport is going to grow.
“Me and Ross, my co-coach, we’re just so thrilled about this because we wish we had it, because we’ve been there and done that. Now we know all the ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ves.’ We can instill that on these guys. They have a heck of a running start.”
Each Team Series event will have a tournament-style format where eight teams will go head-to-head over a three-day span. Rides will be scored the same as traditional bull riding, and team members’ scores are then combined for a team total.
In the event of a tie-breaker, Snyder says the biggest, most ferocious bull will be chosen for the bonus ride. Each team’s coaches will then choose a rider from their roster to try to win the tie-break.
The first-ever event for the Team Series is set for July 25-26 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The new league will be broadcast by CBS Sports Network, and can be found on RidePass via Pluto TV for free.
The PBR has scheduled the Team Series Championships for Nov. 4-6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.