The International Pro Rodeo Association is proud to celebrate 57 years of rodeo excellence. Founded in 1957 by two rodeo promoters, the Interstate Rodeo Association, IRA, was formed as a rodeo management organization and a sanctioning body. Concerned with expansion west of the Mississippi River, this new group’s primary interest was to enhance rodeo’s credibility with the news media in the east, where fly-by-night rodeos and Wild West Shows and unregulated contests had done much to discredit the sport.
The Interstate Rodeo Association began counting championship points won at its rodeos in 1957 and named their first world champions at the end of that year. Included among the rodeos providing championship points that year was the famous Cowtown, N.J. rodeo, the sports first nationally televised event.
In 1964, the Interstate Rodeo Association changed its name to the International Rodeo Association, with headquarters in Pauls Valley, OK, where the association was located until April 1993. Offices are now headquartered in Oklahoma City adjacent to the historic Oklahoma City Stockyards. The word “Professional” was officially added to the association’s name in 1983 giving birth to the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls in the International Professional Rodeo Association.
The Association began planning for its first post-season event, the International Finals Rodeo in 1968. The first IFR was held in February 1971, with a total payoff of $47,000, at the Tulsa Assembly Center as the Finals for the 1970 season. The local Jaycees sponsored the IFR. Tulsa remained the home of the IFR until the end of the 1973 season when it relocated to the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, NM.
The IFR returned to Tulsa in 1975 where it remained until 1990. After the IFR celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1990, the IPRA announced that they had signed a multi-year agreement with the Oklahoma City All Sports Association to move the event to the Myriad Convention Center beginning in January 1991. In 1997, IFR27 moved to the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. The new Ford Center in downtown Oklahoma City hosted IFR33 in 2003.