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July 23, 2014

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Rodeo’s future in Las Vegas entering (another) crucial phase

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Round 10 of the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV.

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 | 3:33 p.m.

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This might be the longest bulldogging go-round ever. But given the stakes, the effort will be worth the tussle.

The back-and-forth between Las Vegas Events and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in the continuing Wrangler National Finals Rodeo saga is reaching yet another critical juncture this week.

The future of the rodeo remains uncertain, with at least two municipalities fighting for the lucrative event. But the WNFR could return to Las Vegas, and that decision might be rendered as early as this week.

Eradicated about a month ago was the idea that the rodeo is certain to be moving to Osceola County, Fla. LVE officials have issued a deadline of Jan. 14 to receive a counteroffer of its proposal to renew the WNFR contract for another 10 years after this year’s event concludes.

This is an extension of the original deadline, which was Jan. 1, to give the PRCA time to dissect the Las Vegas offer. But Tuesday is not the actual hard-and-fast deadline set to determine where the WNFR will be held after 2014. LVE is expecting to receive a counteroffer from the PRCA Board of Directors this week, but this week is not an ultimatum for these discussions.

It is possible, even probable, that Las Vegas officials will review whatever counteroffer is issued beyond the Tuesday deadline.

What the PRCA is weighing, at least as far as has been reported, is a $16 million offer from Osceola County to hold the WNFR annually for 20 years after it leaves Las Vegas. The offer from LVE, which includes prize money and all the related costs of staging the rodeo in Las Vegas, is $11 million to $12 million.

That offer was rejected during what has become an infamous day in these negotiations, Dec. 14. That was the date of the twin developments of the PRCA board’s rejection of the LVE offer and the Osceola County Commission’s announcement that it was entering a 90-day memorandum of understanding to negotiate with the PRCA to uproot the WNFR from Las Vegas to Florida.

If the PRCA were to agree on a new pact in Florida, the WNFR would be held next year at Amway Arena (home of the Orlando Magic), then move to a new, 24,000-seat, $100 million arena planned for Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee in 2016.

What threw the future of the WNFR in Las Vegas, its home since 1985, into doubt was the fact that the PRCA turned down the LVE offer without issuing a counteroffer or even making clear (at least initially) to Las Vegas officials that a new offer would be discussed.

Simultaneously, the Osceola County Commission announced that it was entering a 90-day MOU, leading LVE to issue its own announcement that the rodeo was leaving Las Vegas after this year’s event, which is not necessarily the case.

At least, not yet.

Even as LVE officials have made it clear that it will bring some flavor of rodeo event to Las Vegas if the WNFR does leave, working to save the WNFR is the right move.

For nearly 30 years, the event has been dually beneficial (money-wise and otherwise) for the PRCA and Las Vegas. In 2012, the most recent year these stats have been available, the event drew more than $90 million in non-gaming revenue, up more than $30 million from a year earlier.

For the moment, the focus from our tourism officials is to keep that replacement event as an option but to focus on the continuing negotiations with the PRCA.

That’s a far different tack and message from a month ago, and it is the right one.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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