FRISCO, Texas – I don’t know how else to put this, so I’ll just come right out with it: I hope we didn’t just witness the death of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
Anyone who came out to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas a few weeks ago to witness what had previously been the biggest, most raucously badass independent bass-fishing event in the world probably felt like they had misread the dates. I fully confess that, as the 5:30 p.m. weigh-in time approached on Day 1, I kept glancing at my watch, wondering to myself “Wait … do I have the wrong time?!?”
Nobody showed up.
An event that had previously drawn an estimated 20,000 to 27,000 people a year to the muddy fields in Conroe and tiny Quitman drew a Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex audience that could generously be measured in the hundreds on Days 1 and 2.
That’s a decent draw at an Open or Costa Series event, but the TTBC? That grand, rowdy barn party that Toyota has thrown at Lake Fork and Lake Conroe? Ouch. What a bummer.
You have to applaud Toyota and event organizers for thinking big with the newly created Toyota Texas Fest – a well-attended bass weigh-in at a 20,500-seat soccer stadium would be flat awesome! – but I don’t love the idea of taking the event out of a location where it’s truly a BIG! DARN! DEAL! and moving it to a stadium where it has to compete with … well, everything else that exists in a metroplex of 7.1 million people.
Perhaps the concerts were better attended – I didn’t stick around to watch – but even if they were, it benefited the TTBC/tournament portion of the event not at all. Staging for the event had Dave Mercer and the competitors shuffled over to the northwest corner of the stadium, a good distance away from the main stage.
That was the beauty of previous TTBCs: even if 23,000 of the 25,000 Texans in attendance were there to see Pat Green or the Eli Young Band, they still cheered like fanatics when Keith Combs brought a 10-pound Lake Fork giant to the big stage.
The event still doled out an enormous benefit to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the tune of $250,000 (fast approaching $3 million total), but simple business metrics tells me that a large stadium + performer fees + operating costs – an audience is a bad model, even with healthy sponsor support.
We’ll see how it all works out. I hope the TTBC is back to its former glory next year, because, you know, I love a good ol’ rowdy barn party.