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Could the NFR shift to A’s Las Vegas ballpark?

Updated May 23, 2024 - 8:58 am

Early talks have been had regarding the National Finals Rodeo moving to the Oakland Athletics’ planned Las Vegas $1.5 billion ballpark after its 2028 completion.

Tim Keener, president of Las Vegas Events, said he’s had several preliminary discussions with the A’s and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority regarding the NFR moving down Tropicana Avenue from UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center to the A’s future stadium.

“Which included learning about the early stages of the stadium design,” Keener said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “We certainly wish the A’s success in developing an exciting stadium design for the destination and look forward to seeing the completed renderings and overall footprint and layout.”

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the sanctioning body of the NFR, and the Las Vegas Events Board of Trustees, announced in December an extension keeping the “Super Bowl of rodeo” in Las Vegas through at least 2035. The NFR’s previous deal was scheduled to expire this year.

LVCVA president and CEO Steve Hill, who also serves as chairman of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, also acknowledged that NFR discussions have been had regarding the A’s stadium, but emphasized they are preliminary in nature.

“Yeah, there’s been conversations really with any new venue that comes up, that conversation has taken place,” Hill said following last week’s stadium authority board meeting. “I don’t really know where that stands and whether it makes sense.”

The NFR has been staged annually in December since 1985 at the Thomas & Mack Center, outside of the event being held in Arlington, Texas, in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10-day event, which includes the top 15 contestants in seven categories fighting for a $11.5 million prize purse, has sold out 360 consecutive performances at the Thomas & Mack, drawing over 6.5 million people since 1985, according to the Las Vegas Events.

It is estimated that 340,000 people make the trip to Las Vegas annually for the NFR, with the event generating a $200 million economic impact for Las Vegas, according to LVCVA data. The LVCVA pays the PRCA $3 million annually to sponsor the NFR in Las Vegas.

With 18,000 rodeo fans packing the Thomas & Mack for each performance, Hill isn’t sure how moving the event to a larger venue would do to the event experience for fans. The A’s ballpark is planned to fit a capacity crowd of 33,000 people.

“It’s a great environment,” Hill said of the Thomas & Mack. “When you’ve got 18,000 people there and it’s still an intimate event, that’s a pretty remarkable conflux of a venue and an event. That probably would change somewhat in a baseball stadium. But I certainly think it’s a possibility.”

The A’s are in the process of finalizing multiple agreements with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority and working to finalize the stadium’s design. The team is also working with Tropicana owner Bally’s Corp. and their landlord Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. on where on the 36-acre site the ballpark will rise.

Bally’s Corp. has begun tearing down portions of the shuttered Tropicana, with the major demolition of the property expected to occur in September or October, Bally’s Corp. Chairman Soo Kim previously told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Plans are for the site to be cleared and ready for construction on the A’s ballpark to begin in April.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X.

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