David Key takes the saddles off of his horses after a team roping practice in preparation for the Chute-Out inside the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. The event is slated to take place Dec. 10-12. Daniel Clark/Las Vegas Review Journa
By Alan Snel
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Boyd Gaming and its partner sponsors are investing $1 million to launch a new three-day afternoon rodeo this week in hopes of tapping the pool of thousands of rodeo fans already in Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo.
The inaugural Boyd Gaming Chute-Out will have 64 cowboys, including some world champions, competing for a purse of just over $200,000 at Orleans Arena. The rodeo contestants just missed qualifying for the NFR, which draws the top 15 cowboys in seven rodeo categories at Thomas & Mack Center from Dec. 3-12.
Boyd Gaming created the new rodeo because the Las Vegas-based hotel-casino company believes rodeo fans are looking for something to do during afternoons in Las Vegas besides going to the Cowboy Christmas country/western retail show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Cowboys ranked 16-19 in each category such as bareback riding, steer-wrestling and bull riding, plus 10 former world champions, will be competing in the Chute-Out. Some of the big-name contestants include include former four-time world champion bull rider J.W. Harris; former eight-time world champion and all-around cowboy Joe Beaver; and former two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright.
Boyd does not want to compete with the NFR, which attracts more than 17,500 fans a night for its 6:45 p.m. event. The Chute-Out's hours are 2-4 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with the cheapest ticket being $20, compared to the least expensive NFR ticket at $58.
"The whole idea was to be completely different from NFR," said Chris Gibase, Boyd Gaming chief marketing officer. The new wrinkle in the Chute-Out is that fans can also bet on contestants. Boyd's sportsbooks at Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam's Town, California and Fremont will list odds for each contestant to win any one of the rodeo events in bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding.
The betting on cowboys in the various rodeo categories is part of Boyd's strategy of making the new event as interactive as possible for fans.
Orleans Arena already hosts spillover competition from the World Series of Team Roping, which is held at South Point during NFR. There are so many competitors vying for the $10 million in World Series of Team Roping prize money that some were moved to the Orleans Arena earlier this week before the venue transitioned Wednesday for the rodeo.
Capacity for rodeo at Orleans Arena is 5,600, with Boyd expecting 4,800 to 5,200 fans per day for the Chute-Out, including many walk-up fans.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel