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A historic step forward for the sport of prorodeo

February 28  2014 ProRodeo Sports Cover with Cody WrightNegotiating the future of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo has been a long haul, but we were very pleased to announce Jan. 24 that ProRodeo’s Super Bowl will stay in Las Vegas another 10 years. We had three legitimate offers for 2015 and beyond from Vegas, Dallas and Osceola County, Fla. The PRCA Board of Directors and this administration did not bend to speculation or the flood of uninformed opinions out there. We stayed the course, went on site visits, gathered every detail of information on all three offers, then carefully considered the positives and negatives of each location and offer based on the facts.

This December is the last year on the existing contract with Las Vegas and will be our 30th year there. The Wrangler NFR, which in 2014 runs Dec. 4-13, has had a great run in Vegas, and this year’s $6.375 million payoff will be another record. It’ll pay $19,002 to win a round this year, and first in the average will pay $48,732 (those numbers are, of course, per man in the team roping).

The new contract with Vegas, which runs from 2015-2024, is worth more than $165 million in guaranteed cash payments—and a total of more than $230 million, including ancillary benefits—over 10 years. I said years ago that my goal was $10 million in prize money per year, and that’s the new reality starting in 2015. Every contestant who qualifies will receive a $10,000 bonus, which for the first time will be just that and not a draw against their NFR earnings. After those bonuses are paid, $8.8 million will be in the payoff, which will break down into $26,232 for first in the rounds and $67,269 for the top spot in the average.

To back up just a little bit and explain how the final stages of the NFR negotiations went, the PRCA Board of Directors met on the Sunday after the 2013 Finals ended and agreed to counteroffer Las Vegas Event’s existing offer to the PRCA. We did that. And in the end, LVE agreed to our counteroffer. There has been speculation and even false facts posted online at times during this process. The truth is that the money was very close in all three places. We did not leave a pile of money on the table, as some uninformed sources have stated incorrectly, if you compare the same columns in each offer.

When you start looking at a similar financial picture, other factors come into play, including familiarity. We know what the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo looks like in Las Vegas, and we know that rodeo people enjoy everything that great city has to offer. We’ve had 27 years of 10-round sellouts in Vegas. We know this event is successful and hugely popular there. Still, we had to make sure we got our members the best possible offer, in order to maximize their opportunity.

Each of the three offers included financial components in addition to the NFR payoff, in order to benefit every member of our association. There will be $1.2 million going into our circuit system starting in 2015. That will double the money paid out at our circuit finals, which benefits every single PRCA member and drives membership at every level of our game.

The word on the street is that this contract includes having the National Finals Steer Roping in Las Vegas. That’s true. The 2014 NFSR will be held in Las Vegas during the NFR. There is money in the new contract dedicated to the NFSR, including a $7,500 NFSR qualifier bonus, starting in 2015.

The new NFR contract with Las Vegas is worth about $16.5 million a year in guaranteed cash payment to the PRCA and its members—more than $23 million a year, including ancillary benefits. The basic breakdown on that includes $10 million for NFR contestants, $3 million for stock contractors, $2 million for the PRCA for year-round operations, including NFR-related costs and staffing (the PRCA is the only entity involved that did not take a raise with the new contract), $1.2 million to the PRCA Circuit System and $287,500 for the NFSR. The National Finals Rodeo Committee approves and hires the contract personnel, so that money—for NFR announcers, bullfighters, secretaries, timers and all paid personnel comes out of the NFR and NFSR production budgets.

That $10 million for NFR contestants, including the $10,000 qualifier bonuses and $8.8 million payoff, is guaranteed by LVE from 2015-19. Cost of living increases will kick in from 2020-24. I believe everybody wins with this new contract. Some 176,558 hard-core rodeo fans packed the Thomas & Mack Center during the run of the 2013 NFR, and thousands more ventured to Vegas to get in on the large time that 10 days there has to offer. The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo has an $87.9 million economic impact on Las Vegas, and that’s non-gaming revenue. Our friends in Vegas tell us that more than a million rodeo fans have made the trip to Vegas to take in the greatest 10 days in our sport since we moved there in 1985. Vegas loves the Wrangler NFR, and they stepped up and proved it. As I said before, it’s been a long haul getting here. But it was well worth it, and the sport of ProRodeo just took a historic step forward.

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