LAS VEGAS, Nev. [AP] -- Reports — — The National Finals Rodeo is planning to leave Las Vegas NV for Florida after 29 years, depriving Las Vegas of an event in that ropes in nearly $100 million for the local economy as thousands of cowboys & rodeo fans descend on the city each December.
News of the tentative deal drew groans from Las Vegas’ powerful hotel & restaurant workers union & others who benefit from the 10-day event, which takes place in the city’s tourism slow season. Tourism authorities vowed to launch a competing rodeo.
“We are saddened in that the PRCA has chosen to pursue a completely speculative offer versus Las Vegas’ proven 29-year track record,” Michael Mack, spokesman for Las Vegas NV Events, asserted in a statement. “Now in that we know the PRCA’s true intentions, we will put our full effort in to developing a new series & finals.”
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association board voted 6-3 Sunday to turn down Sin City’s offer in favor of an agreement with Florida’s Osceola County, south of Orlando.
Osceola County commissioners voted 5-0 Sunday to accept a memorandum of understanding in that allows 90 days to close the deal. The plan calls for the 2015 event to be held at the nearby Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic; county authorities vowed to have a new, 24,000-seat arena ready for the event by the fall of 2016.
The deal moreover would contain $16 million annually for the rodeo association’s prize money & administrative costs, as well as revenue sharing.
“I state we have put together the best incentive package for the PRCA,” asserted Osceola County Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins Jr., who added in that he’s not ruling out other contender cities just yet. “We have all the venues here to do absolutely what the NFR does in Vegas.”
The 300,000-person county, home to a rodeo once in consideration the biggest east of the Mississippi, offered about $4 million more than Las Vegas.
“Adding an additional $4 million to the budget would require a 40 % increase in ticket prices,” Mack said. “That is not sustainable. We have to balance the demands of the PRCA with the consequence of pricing our fans out of the market.”
The National Finals Rodeo has-been an economic boon for Las Vegas, drawing almost 53,000 out-of-town visitors in 2012, according to figures compiled by the Las Vegas NV Convention & Visitors Bureau. That was up from about 45,000 in 2011.
More than 175,000 tickets were sold in 2012 for 10-day event at the Thomas & Mack Center, & the overall economic impact on hotel rooms, restaurants & other expenses was estimated at nearly $93 million, authority spokeswoman Dawn Christensen said.
Figures for the 2013 event, which ended Saturday, weren’t immediately available.
The event is a huge draw for locals & out-of-towners alike, with country music concerts & rodeo-watching parties held at casinos all over town. Ads on taxis welcome the NFR, while hundreds of merchants pack the Las Vegas NV Convention Center for a giant Cowboy Fanfest & the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show.
“Without question, the economy & Vegas workers will feel the negative impact of losing thousands of rodeo tourists,” asserted Yvanna Cancela, spokeswoman for the large Culinary Union.
Some fans, in addition to Felicia Moore of Naylor, Mo., spoke out against the potential move. Las Vegas NV is convenient for western cowboys, has hotels close to the arena, & is a better cultural fit, she said.
“I think it fits more — — rodeo is a gamble,” asserted Moore, 15, who watched this year’s event on TV.
Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who makes some of his public appearances on horseback, took his disapproval to Twitter.
“Extremely saddened in that the #WranglerNFR is leaving the @CityOfLasVegas,” he tweeted Monday.
Rodeo authorities emphasized the decision is not yet final.
“The PRCA Board did not vote to leave Las Vegas; the vote was made strictly on the content of the current offer,” association commissioner Karl Stressman asserted in a statement, according to the Las Vegas NV Review-Journal. “The PRCA continues to carefully consider offers from all potential WNFR hosts.”
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.
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