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Closing Shot: Riding Back To Vegas

The National Finals Rodeo returns to familiar settings this week after the pandemic forced the event to leave The Strip and blaze a new trail to Texas in 2020.

By Adam Stern
Las Vegas has been the traditional home of the National Finals Rodeo since 1985.Steve Gray / PRCA

Cowboy hats will be dotting The Strip starting this week as the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo returns to its longtime home of Las Vegas for its 2021 edition after a year away due to the pandemic.

 

Paul Woody, vice president of business development for PRCA Properties, said the event has been eagerly anticipating its return to Vegas. “We expect big things to develop from the face-to-face interactions we’ve missed,” he said. “The momentum will be noticeable.”

The National Finals Rodeo is run by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which describes the rodeo as the largest spectator event annually in the Western lifestyle industry. The rodeo is the culmination of the season for the PRCA, and the entirety of The Strip typically gets behind it, with 23 casino hotel properties signed as sponsors.

Las Vegas had hosted the event since 1985, but it was moved to Globe Life Field last year in Arlington, Texas, due to pandemic restrictions at the time. Nevada had implemented heavy limits on crowd sizes while Texas had eased such rules. While restrictions in Nevada have since eased, attendees this year will have to still follow local health guidelines that include wearing a mask indoors.

The event will take place from Dec. 2-11 at the Thomas & Mack Center, with 17,000 people expected a night, or 170,000 over the course of the event. It will pay out more than $14 million in prize money to competitors across traditional rodeo skills such as bull riding, barrel racing and tie-down roping.

The PRCA pulls in more than $20 million in sponsorship and media revenue each year, representing an increase of roughly 80% since 2017, and the National Finals Rodeo plays a major role in that, Woody said. Sponsors include Wrangler, Yeti, Ram trucks, Traeger Grills, Purina and Pendleton Whisky.

The event is aired on The Cowboy Channel streaming network, which delivers around 10 hours of programming each day during the event. Viewership reached a total of 14 million for the 10 nights of live competition last year. Overall, the PRCA has aired more than 120 rodeos on The Cowboy Channel this year.

What elevates the National Finals Rodeo is its overall promotion of the Western lifestyle. The event serves as gathering place for the entire farm and ranch industry, and on top of the rodeo, it features such events as a trade and gift show called The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas, a Miss Rodeo America Pageant, Benny Binion’s World Famous Bucking Horse & Bull Sale, and the Cinch Western Gift Show.

Texas filled in nicely last year, but the PRCA is eager to have Las Vegas back in the saddle again.

 

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