With PBR, Rodeo’s Heart Will Go On

We’re used to early December being rodeo time in Las Vegas; that’s when the National Finals Rodeo takes over the town. But NFR’s not-so-little cousin, Professional Bull Riders’ Built Ford Tough World Finals, shakes the ground at the Thomas & Mack Center through Oct. 28—and it’s become a local institution in its own right.

PBR has had its finals here every year since 1994—and over the five days of action, the Finals expect to draw more than 70,000 fans. With most of them coming from out of town, that gives the economy a perceptible lift; it’s estimated that PBR visitors will spend more than $15 million on rooms, meals and transportation. And they’ll end up leaving nearly $5 million more at the city’s casinos.

The cultural impact of the October championship is apparent at the PBR Rock Bar, a locally owned establishment that opened at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops in 2010. It’s just one example of how the rodeo subculture has an enduring foothold in the city: PBR has about a third of the economic impact of NFR, but its importance to Las Vegas goes beyond dollars and cents. It’s the opening chute for the December event, getting the city ready for the flood of pickups, animal trailers and belt buckles. It’s also a reminder that, important as NFR is, it’s not the only game in town—food for thought as rumors continue to swirl that NFR is considering pulling up stakes.