NFR’s 10-day run begins Thursday in Las Vegas

Make way for the big hats and cowboy boots.

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo rides into town Thursday for 10 nights of competition to determine the best riders, ropers and all-around-best cowboys and cowgirls in the country.

The final rodeo of the year is a competition among the 15 top money-winners in eight rodeo events — bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, steer roping, bull riding and barrel racing.

It happens at the time of year around the holidays when Southern Nevada resorts once performed annual maintenance projects, closed showrooms and gave employees time off.

Now, for some properties, it’s the busiest time of the year.

Worst to best

“The greatest thing about it is that December used to be the worst month of the year,” said Ryan Growney, general manager of the South Point. “That’s the icing on the cake. Now, all of a sudden, at least for the South Point anyway, December is the best month of the year because of that two-week period.”

South Point owner Michael Gaughan was one of the early believers that Las Vegas would be the perfect home for what is considered the “Super Bowl of rodeo.” He was part of a group of cowboy lifestyle fans that convinced the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to move the event to Las Vegas from Oklahoma City in 1985.

Since that move, NFR’s popularity has exploded, drawing more and more fans to Southern Nevada, even though most people who come can’t even get tickets to the sold-out rodeo performances at the Thomas &Mack Center.

The LVCVA officially forecasts 170,750 attendees for the 2018 NFR, but that just covers the full house at the Thomas &Mack for 10 performances. The conservative economic impact estimate is $113 million.

Las Vegas Events, the special-events arm of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, uses the rodeo as the signature-event model for how to grow participation, visitation and spending with spinoff activities related to the main attraction.

“There’s so much for everybody to do throughout the city,” said Lisa Motley, who formerly worked for Las Vegas Events and is now the LVCVA’s director of sports marketing and special events.

Various casinos will host viewing parties with broadcasts of the rodeo sessions. Other rodeo-related activities will include the Miss Rodeo America Pageant; the World Series of Team Roping, a competition for headers and heelers at the South Point Equestrian Center; All In Barrel Racing at The Orleans Arena; Cowboy Christmas and other gift shows across the valley; a kickoff hoedown in downtown Las Vegas; and the nation’s top country music performing acts in showrooms across the valley.

“We’ve got 20-plus viewing parties at all the hotel properties and they turn the race and sportsbooks into country havens to watch the rodeo and be with like-minded people and they do the afterparties,” Motley said. “The Mirage does a great job turning its race and sportsbook into a nightclub.”

NFR is continuing to expand, both geographically and in demographic reach.

On Tuesday, downtown Las Vegas’ Plaza opened its new Core Arena the first permanent outdoor equestrian center in downtown Las Vegas.

Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, and Matt Shiozawa, a rodeo professional ranked 13th in NFR standings, presided over the ribbon-cutting event.

Benefits all around

While the benefits of NFR are spread all over town, South Point may be the property that draws the most attention since not only are its rooms filled with rodeo participants and fans, but it’s also a hotel for horses and livestock.

“At South Point, we’re country all year long because we have an equestrian center,” Growney said.

Crowds are drawn to the property because gold buckles from each evening’s rodeo performance are presented there in the Montana Silversmith Go-Round Buckle Presentation on all but the final night of competition. That gives fans the opportunity to meet and greet the night’s winning participants.

Growney said the casino has a raucous atmosphere at rodeo time. Horse troughs filled with ice-cold beer are located throughout the casino floor. During the two weeks of the rodeo, South Point opens 12 additional blackjack tables to accommodate cowboys’ and cowgirls’ propensity to gamble.

‘Packed to the rafters’

“This place is packed to the rafters, but it’s so much fun and they’re such wonderful people, we enjoy the heck out of it,” Growney said.

During the rodeo, South Point’s Italian restaurant, Don Vito’s, becomes an expanded steakhouse to accommodate crowds.

“Four years ago, there would be a two-hour wait to get into the Silverado Steakhouse because cowboys like steak and potatoes, but you could walk into Don Vito’s and sit down and eat Italian food because the place was half empty,” Growney said. “We said, ‘This is ridiculous, we’re wasting a lot of space and a lot of seats.’”

But luckily, Silverado and Don Vito’s are right next door to each other and the kitchens, while separate, are connected.

“We just duplicated the Silverado menu and put it in Don Vito’s, so we call it Don Vito’s Steakhouse,” he said.

Growney knows rodeo time is a fan favorite for his guests.

“We will sell out for the 2019 NFR,” Growney said, “before the 2018 NFR ends.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

Business Videos
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA/Boring Company Press Conference
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced a collaboration with Elon Musk's The Boring Company to develop and operate an autonomous people mover system for the Las Vegas Convention Center District.
International Pizza Expo includes green and gluten free
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included companies focused on vegan and gluten free, and plant-based pizza boxes. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo kicks off in Las Vegas
The first day of the International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center is everything Pizza. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
T-Mobile program aids guests with sensory needs
A program at T-Mobile Arena is designed to provide a more sensory friendly experience for guests.
Photo Booth Expo
Danielle May talks about how Simple Booth transformed her Volkswagen bus into a business.
Nevada Gaming Commission's highest fines
The highest fines assessed by the Nevada Gaming Commission, according to commission Chairman Tony Alamo: 1) Wynn Resorts Ltd., $20 million, 2019 2) CG Technology (then known as Cantor G&W Holdings), $5.5 million, 2014 3) The Mirage, $5 million ($3 million fine, $2 million compensatory payment), 2003 4) Stardust, $3 million, 1985 5) Santa Fe Station, $2.2 million ($1.5 million fine, $700,000 compensatory payment), 2005 6) Las Vegas Sands, $2 million, 2016 7) CG Technology, $1.75 million, 2018 8) CG Technology, $1.5 million (also $25,000 in escrow for underpaid patrons), 2016 9) Caesars Entertainment, $1.5 million, 2015 10) Imperial Palace, $1.5 million, 1989 11) Peppermill Casinos, $1 million, 2014
Tiny Pipe Home vs Shipping Crate
A Tiny pipe home was displayed at the International Builders Show this week in Las Vegas.
Auto repair shortage affects Las Vegas
The auto repair industry is facing a national shortage of workers.
Franchising industry booming
Experts say Las Vegas is a hotbed for the franchise industry.
Africa Love owner talks about his store in Las Vegas
Mara Diakhate, owner of Africa Love, gift and decor store, talks about his store in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Developer gets approval to build homes at Bonnie Springs
The Clark County Planning Commission has approved a plan to build 20 homes on the site of Bonnie Springs Ranch. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing