Thomas & Mack renovation means rodeo will lose about 200 seats starting in 2015

The $47 million renovation job at the Thomas &Mack Center means the National Finals Rodeo will lose about 200 seats and ticket revenue from those lost seats starting in 2015.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas arena that sells out during the NFR’s annual 10-day run is losing seats because the 31-year-old sports and entertainment venue needs to comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The UNLV renovation work will not begin until Oct. 1, and the seat removal will not affect ticket sales at this year’s National Finals Rodeo shows, said Mike Newcomb, executive director of Thomas &Mack Center, Sam Boyd Stadium and Cox Pavilion. The NFR 10-day stint is Dec. 4-13.

The rehab work, which includes modernizing and expanding bathrooms, overhauling the air and heat systems, adding more concession space and applying a new main concourse floor surface, is in its design phase, Newcomb said Monday.

“I don’t think anybody wants to lose any seats, but I don’t think we have any choice,” said Karl Stressman, commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based organization that sanctions the NFR. The event is considered the Super Bowl of rodeos, drawing the top cowboy competitors in different rodeo categories.

Ticket revenue is a big factor because Las Vegas Events, which produces and markets the NFR, had to boost the compensation in purses and sponsorships in order to keep the NFR in Las Vegas. The NFR contributes about $60 million annually to the Las Vegas economy at a time of the year when tourism is down.

The PRCA and Las Vegas Events reached a deal in January to keep the NFR in Las Vegas until 2024. The agreement guarantees $16.5 million annually in purses and sponsorships.

The NFR sells out nightly, filling the 17,600-seat arena for the 10 days. Starting in 2015, the loss of 200 seats over a 10-day period means ticket sales for 2,000 seats will be gone. With NFR tickets going for $55, $77 and $250 each, lost revenue would be in the $130,000 range without those 200 seats starting in 2015.

The loss of seats will be in both the lower and upper bowls, Newcomb said. The arena is removing seats because it needs to create more seating options for the disabled to meet ADA rules, he said.

The PRCA believes the NFR could sell another 2,000-2,500 tickets because of the demand for the popular rodeo. So, there’s a good possibility the rodeo cowboy organization will take a close look at moving the NFR to the new 20,000-seat arena being built by Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group and MGM Resorts International.

The arena, which will be built behind the New York-New York parking garage on the Strip, is scheduled to open in mid-2016.

Stressman said the PRCA has not reviewed any concrete AEG-MGM arena proposals but acknowledged the rodeo cowboys association could sell more tickets at that new venue.

Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson said the NFR cannot leave Thomas &Mack unless the LVE board signs off on the move. AEG officials have said they would welcome the NFR at their new arena.

“It’s business as usual for Thomas &Mack until we sit down and evaluate what a new arena would bring to us,” Stressman said.

“We’re thrilled that the negotiations are behind us, and we’re charging forward and making the NFR better and better and better.”

Contact reporter Alan Snel at 702-387-5273 or asnel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.