By Alan Snel
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Events, the promoter of the National Finals Rodeo held every December in Las Vegas, has extended its deal with Thomas & Mack Center to hold the popular rodeo event at the arena through 2024.
Las Vegas Events, the nonprofit promotional arm of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, took a look at the new arena being built on the Strip but ultimately decided to stay with Thomas & Mack.
The NFR, the Super Bowl of rodeos as it's called, is a major money maker for Thomas & Mack on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. The arena sells out for NFR events and is considered an ideal venue for the rodeo because of good sight lines and the two entrances that allow good access for the rodeo's horses and other animals.
The rodeo has been held at Thomas & Mack for 30 years, with the event reaching an all-time attendance record of 177,565 in 2014.
The deal between Thomas & Mack and Las Vegas Events mirrors the extension signed between Las Vegas Events/LVCVA and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which keeps the NFR in Las Vegas through 2024.
Las Vegas Events considered the new arena being built on the Strip as a potential home for the NFR. MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) are partnering on the privately financed $375 million arena that will open behind the New York-New York parking garage in April 2016.
But in the end, Thomas & Mack was a better venue for the rodeo than the AEG-MGM arena, said Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events.
"MGM took the position they want to have incremental, new events. The design of the arena didn't consider the NFR that much," Christenson said.
Thomas & Mack is also spending $72 million on upgrading its arena, including widening the concourse, adding more bathrooms and concession stands and improving traffic flow.
Even though Thomas & Mack was designed with basketball in mind three decades ago, it turned out to be a great place for a rodeo because the fans ended up being closer to the rodeo action, Christenson said.
"It became a fan's venue," Christenson said.
The 2015 NFR is Dec. 3-12.