Remembering when Rock Springs was branded 'Home of the Steel Ponies'

The reveal of Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism’s master tourism plan to the Green River City Council last week had me thinking about a tourism-based study the Rock Springs city government initiated in the early 2010s.

Although it was just over a decade ago, Rock Springs and Sweetwater County were a different place. The residual momentum from the oil and gas boom meant money was still coming in from the activity, but local leaders knew things were coming to a close and were looking at a means of diversifying the local economy to lessen or even avoid the bust cycle most knew was on its way. That search never ended as local leaders are talking about how we should diversify our economy, repeating many of the same talking points that were covered years ago.

The plan developed then would focus branding on the biking competitions taking place at the Sweetwater County Events Complex. The argument was that competitors traveled throughout the region for competition and expanding BMX competitions at the complex would bring people to the area. One specific comment I remember hearing mentioned during a presentation to the city’s business owners was that grandparents tend to feel guilty for how much they worked while raising their children, and spend more to support their grandchildren’s activities. The branding included iconography featuring a BMX rider in a similar pose to Wyoming’s bucking horse and the tagline “Home of the Steel Ponies.”

Look around today and it’s quickly evident that the branding idea never took hold. I spoke with then Mayor Carl Demshar a few years after the presentation and his response was the businesses and local leaders weren’t on board and dropped the whole thing. I don’t think it was something to absolutely double down all of the area’s tourism and branding efforts on, but I also don’t see how it couldn’t have been integrated into a wider promotion. I also don’t think the “Home of the Steel Ponies” tagline won a lot of fans and should have been workshopped more before the branding plan was unveiled. I think the word “ponies” itself is problematic because a pony isn’t a full horse, it’s a horse generally associated with small children.

Biking is promoted as we have a diverse system of trails and roads throughout Sweetwater County and Sweetwater Travel and Tourism has done a great job promoting them with the other recreational activities available here.

However, trying to refer to a place as “Home of the Steel Ponies” was a stretch.


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