Vegas Cowboy Saga Continues

Will the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association saddle up for Florida, or remain in Las Vegas, 10-year home of the National Finals Rodeo? The decision could signal a significant decline in visitation and revenues for the gaming capital.

PRCA submits counteroffer to Las Vegas Events

Will the cowboys hit the dusty desert trail, or remain in Las Vegas, the established home of the National Finals Rodeo?

Last month, the departure of the NFR seemed like a done deal. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the sanctioning body for the popular event, accepted an offer from Osceola County, Florida, near Orlando, to relocate the rodeo there. County commissioners in Florida promised greener pastures, literally, with a package that included $16 million in purses, a new 24,000-seat stadium, and millions more in marketing funds.

But last Tuesday, the PRCA seemed willing to reconsider. The organization submitted a counter-offer to Las Vegas Events, an arm of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, which wants to keep the popular multiday rodeo in Vegas after the current contract expires this year.

“There is no set timeline for a response,” said Michael Mack, spokesman for Las Vegas Events, the NFR event organizer.No terms of the counter-offer have been divulged; previously, Las Vegas Events offered a proposal valued at $15 million per year, which includes $6.2 million in purses.

The NFR, called the Super Bowl of rodeos, has been part of the event calendar in Vegas for the past 29 years. It adds tens of millions of dollars per year to the local economy, and does it in early December, when visitation typically slows. In 2012, the event, which sells out nightly for 10 days, generated more than $90 million in nongaming revenue, up more than $30 million from the year before, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

Dallas is also courting the cowpokes, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Texas Governor Rick Perry both have expressed interest in bringing the rodeo to the Lone Star State.

Osceola County Chairman Fred Hawkins conceded last week that the competition is stiff.

“Las Vegas is still in play. I’m not going to rule out anybody. Every place has its good points,” Hawkins said. “The PRCA has a big decision to make.”

At the same time, the Colorado-based PRCA is facing a revolt from within. Earlier this month, a group of top NFR contestants signed a statement saying they will leave the PRCA to start their own rodeo organization. They claim they don’t have enough of a say in the PRCA’s decisions, and are not adequately represented on the board.

In a statement, the PRCA said 11 cowboys asked the board to add contestant board seats and change eligibility rules for the NFR.

“In the interest of serving all 6,000-plus PRCA members and the entire sport of professional rodeo, the PRCA board requested additional time to research and carefully consider all requests from the contestant group, but the 11 contestants denied that request,” the statement said.

The cowboys, led by Trevor Brazile, 11-time world rodeo champion, said the PRCA board rejected their requests.

In Las Vegas’s favor, a report from Union Gaming says rodeo employees and the event’s fan base “are much closer to Las Vegas (Wyoming, Montana, Texas) than Florida and enjoy the 24/7 nature of the city.”