Since its arrival in 1985, the National Finals Rodeo has been the darling of December in Las Vegas. The 10-day blowout, aptly nicknamed the Super Bowl of Rodeo, draws tens of thousands of fans from all over the United States, Canada and points beyond.
The NFR provides a huge economic jolt during an otherwise slow time, turning the valley into Cowboy Town. It has filled the Thomas &Mack Center with nearly 18,000 fans every night for 29 years — 290 performances once this year’s NFR wraps up Saturday night. Thousands more fans come to town without rodeo tickets just to take in all the entertainment options, many of which are transformed during NFR week to cater to cowboys and cowgirls. As a result, the NFR has grown into an unmatched experience for all things Western.
It’s been a prosperous partnership. But there’s no guarantee it will continue. As the Review-Journal’s Alan Snel reported Monday, the NFR’s current contract has just one year left on it, expiring after next year’s event. And there are eager suitors who would gladly sell the ranch to lure the NFR away from Las Vegas, most notably Oklahoma City — left by the NFR for Las Vegas in 1985 — and Dallas.
Las Vegas Events, which markets and promotes the NFR, and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which puts on the event, no doubt agree the relationship between the NFR and Las Vegas has been mutually beneficial to a point no one could have imagined back in 1985. But in this day and age, cities can and do lose major events all the time.
To that end, Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson has been proactive in working to secure the next contract with the PRCA. Mr. Christenson told Mr. Snel the latest offer includes a $15 million commitment, covering everything from year-round marketing and promotions, event production and hotel accommodations for contestants to leasing a venue, providing Cowboy Christmas/Fanfest and free transportation for arena spectators. “The offer we made to them is higher than what they are getting now,” Mr. Christenson said. “It’s not that we’re saying, ‘Re-up for what you’re getting in the past.’ We’re waiting for the PRCA to vote and accept it. The ball is in their court.”
The proposed deal, Mr. Snel reported, also allows both sides to consider moving the event to the 20,000-seat arena being built by MGM Resorts and AEG on the Strip, which is slated to open in 2016. Mr. Christenson said it would be difficult for any other city to match Las Vegas’ offer.
Here’s hoping Mr. Christenson is correct. Las Vegas and the NFR are great partners. They need to cowboy up and get a deal done.