What does the Native make of the National Finals Rodeo leaving Las Vegas?
Well, they haven’t left yet; 2014 is the final year on the current contract. According to some reports, a final decision by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has yet to be made. Meanwhile, Las Vegas Events (the company that produces the rodeo here) insists that its offer is final.
Like most others who heard the news that NFR may be skipping town for what is being touted as a family-friendly, gaming-free, $4-million-richer rodeo in Florida, I was shocked at first. NFR has been a Strip, Downtown and campus fixture for nearly three decades. An entire cowboy culture overlay has been developed during that time, with stars taking over showrooms, lesser-known faves occupying lounge stages, and even shopping events (such as the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show) created to attract and entertain the NFR’s 45,000 fans and competitors.
It’s hard to wrap one’s head around a Las Vegas without this winter westernization that is so close to our heritage. As I wrote last December, Las Vegas was once a dead zone between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The NFR is one reason that’s changed over the past two decades.
But it’s only one reason. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s success at attracting international travelers has also helped to improve our city’s winter fortunes. It seems unlikely that the city would slow enough to see a return to the widespread old-school practice of closing restaurants for six winter weeks at a time.
Choices based on finances alone rarely make long-term sense. So as NFR plans to decamp for an untested market that might be all hat and no cattle, I’m happy that Las Vegas Events swiftly announced its intention to stage another rodeo in its place. It was essentially a raise-and-call move in a city where the house usually wins, and the NFR’s potential departure hints at an opportunity for Las Vegas to grab change by the horns and run away with it. We’re pretty good at that.