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EDITORIAL: National Finals Rodeo returns to its Las Vegas home

The rodeo is back in town, and Las Vegas couldn’t be happier.

UNLV’s Thomas &Mack Center is playing host to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. It began on Thursday and runs for 10 days. There’s every indication that the event is going to be a rousing success for those participating, those watching and the Las Vegas businesses eager to welcome them.

“The entire rodeo community is excited to be back in Vegas,” Tom Glause, the CEO of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which sponsors the event, said.

The rodeo’s many fans have already made that abundantly clear. They were so eager to return to Southern Nevada that the event sold out in March.

The surge of tourists is a boon for the local economy, too. Room rates at local resorts are up. Restaurants and other businesses catering to tourists — assuming they can find enough staff — will benefit. Events such as this provide the funds that fuel the local economy, benefiting even those who don’t work in the resort corridor. The total economic impact may even surpass the $175.8 million the event generated in 2019.

“NFR returning to Las Vegas also serves as a vital December economic boon for our community and another important step in our recovery efforts,” Steve Hill, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said.

This excitement stands in stark contrast to last year. Responding to restrictions imposed by Gov. Steve Sisolak, the rodeo moved to Texas in 2020. That was bad news for rodeo fans and Las Vegas’s economy, which still hasn’t fully recovered. Las Vegas is tied with Los Angeles for the highest unemployment rate among large metropolitan areas at 7.4 percent.

Fortunately, highly effective vaccines changed the dynamics of the coronavirus pandemic. They give people ample reasons to feel confident coming here to experience world-class events such as the rodeo.

All this comes as a new variant — named omicron — has made the markets jittery and raised concerns among public health professionals. But it would be a mistake for politicians to again talk of lockdowns, which failed to stop the spread of COVID while proving to be economically and emotionally disastrous. Vaccines — including boosters — remain the best method of attack.

As these next few days will show, Las Vegas remains the global leader for tourism and entertainment. Gov. Sisolak needs to assure event planners that lockdowns and other draconian restrictions are off the table. With common-sense precautions in place, Las Vegas remains ready and able to host even the biggest conventions, concerts and sporting events.

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