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NFR offers fan experiences outside Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas

Head out to any of the 10 nights at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and you will no doubt be treated to riveting action on the arena dirt at the Thomas & Mack Center.

But don’t think for a moment that you’ve got to be in your seat to be entertained — before, during and after each go-round.

Just as the Wrangler NFR has expanded to include ancillary events at all hours around town, so has it expanded with the daily main course at this buffet of rodeo. The experience starts before fans even enter the arena, with the ProRodeo Zone, featuring sponsor-activation tents and live music, and the NFR Fan Zone, featuring the PRCA and Wrangler NFR merchandise trailer, along with plenty of food and beverage options.

Enhancing the pre-rodeo experience even more, two video boards on the face of the arena provide Wrangler NFR moments, highlight videos, interactive content and contestant interviews. But the continuing evolution of The Shoe, a 36,000-square-foot hospitality area at the northwest end of the arena, is what most excites Las Vegas Events president Pat Christenson.

“We’ve upgraded The Shoe. CBS Sports Network is doing a live broadcast before the event each night, and outside, RFD-TV will do a live show, ‘NFR Countdown,’ ” Christenson said, noting The Shoe also includes interactive areas and a 2,500-square-foot glass-enclosed balcony with a Strip view. “The experience at the Thomas & Mack continues to grow and evolve in each of our interactive areas — the plaza, The Shoe, Cowboy Corral and the Bull & Barrel Saloon.”

The Cowboy Corral takes over Cox Pavilion throughout the Wrangler NFR, with live music both before and after the rodeo each night, a massive bar and plenty of space to sit and relax or kick up your heels to a variety of country music artists. Next to the Cowboy Corral is the Bull & Barrel Saloon, with its own bar and food service, along with a Hall of Champions that pays tribute to past Wrangler NFR greats.

“You’ve got all that before you even get to the rodeo,” Christenson said. “Then there’s the $75 million upgrade of the Thomas & Mack Center over the past few years. Getting in and out of the arena is a much better process.”

It’s all part of a master plan that has seen the Wrangler NFR stretch its footprint and impact not only at the Thomas & Mack, but around town. Christenson said it’s been a team effort between Las Vegas Events and the PRCA — the two entities that manage the Wrangler NFR — and the hotels, convention halls, concert venues and more.

“I think the growth and evolution of the Wrangler NFR is because of the collaboration with all the partners,” Christenson said. “You’ve got the hotels with all they do, bringing in new types of events that go all day long. There’s Cowboy Christmas, which has collaborated with the rodeo industry and our vendors, plus four or five other shows around town.”

Still, the nightly competition at the Thomas & Mack remains the centerpiece, the reason this event has sold out all 10 nights every year since 1987. This year is just providing even more reasons to go to the rodeo.

“The things we’ve added really encourage people to get here early, because there’s always something to do,” Christenson said.

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