Heralded as one of the most iconic amphitheaters and arenas in all of North America, the newly expanded Thunder Ridge is set to re-open in September hosting Thunder Days, a Professional Bull Rider team series competition.
The breathtaking, nature-based outdoor venue is a pet project of noted conservationist Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar Lodge, and is a natural amphitheater that overlooks Table Rock Lake and the Boston Mountains of Arkansas.
“We are so excited for Thunder Ridge to help showcase the true beauty of the Ozarks to our guests,” Johnny Morris said. “This will be a place for visitors of all ages to come and experience some of the best events and biggest names in entertainment, in a truly awe-inspiring environment, surrounded by nature.”
Located on about 1,200 acres near Ridgedale, Thunder Ridge is adjacent to the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Academy on land originally purchased by Johnny Morris almost 30 years ago. For the past decade it has accommodated large gatherings including concerts by Hank Williams Jr., Chris Janson, Dierks Bentley, Tracy Lawrence and other major acts.
It also has hosted air shows, hot air balloon shows, the US Open Bowfishing Championship, the US Open National Bass Tournament, the National 4-H Youth Council gathering, rodeos, conventions, symposiums, special events and weddings, and is set to host nature-based activities for all ages and interests for years to come.
The expansion of Thunder Ridge, increasing capacity from 10,000 to approximately 50,000, is the latest in Big Cedar Lodge’s proud tradition of hosting world-class hospitality and entertainment experiences that span a variety of recreational markets. These enhancements – which have been done without any tax dollars – will more than double the previous seating capacity, without sacrificing the venue’s stunning nature-based charm. It provides another grandiose outdoor venue for a resort that hosts 7 million guests per year, and a Branson community that attracts 10 million visitors every year.
Thunder Ridge land has been set aside as part of the not-for-profit Johnny Morris Conservation Foundation, so all proceeds from events held at the Nature Arena will go to further enhance Thunder Ridge and support conservation. The vision for the future is to host a wide variety of world-class, outdoor events.
The nature-based entertainment venue is stunning.
Johnny has personally worked closely with contractors to transform Thunder Ridge Nature Arena, taking inspiration from visits to some of the most well-known outdoor venues across the country, including The Gorge Amphitheater in Quincy, Washington, Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver, and to the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming.
Thunder Ridge immerses guests in nature, with features such as large sloping grass lawns and fire pits for groups of all sizes to enjoy. This expansion provides additional capacity without sacrificing the venue’s stunning nature-based character.
Shaped into the hillsides of the Ozarks and overlooking Table Rock Lake, the setting of the arena, near the Missouri-Arkansas border, allows visitors views into the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and to be totally immersed in nature. Even the parking lots are tucked into the hillsides. Crews have been working around the clock to prepare for upcoming major events.
The host team Missouri Thunder, started by Johnny Morris and coached by bull-riding legends and Hall of Famers Ross Coleman and Luke Snyder, is currently in first place in the standings in the PBR Team Series, which has proven to be a wildly popular addition to the sport.
The area has hosted bull-riding events in the past, but nothing on the scale and excitement that the Missouri Thunder and other PBR teams will generate. This will be the first opportunity for local fans to get a taste of the sport that is surging in popularity.
“Thunder Ridge is one of the most unique and beautiful venues that I have ever seen. It is truly breathtaking,” said Colten Fritzlan, one of the top individual riders in the PBR Team Series. “We can’t wait for Thunder Days to be able to put on a show for our fans, and for bull-riding fans everywhere.”
Tickets for Thunder Days are now available for purchase on www.ticketmaster.com.
Future plans include the addition of campground space in the area, providing more nature-based experiences and outdoor activities for visitors of all ages to enjoy.