postheadericon Communication is vital for rodeo’s future

The past five days have featured an overwhelming response to the future location of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. On Sunday evening, I posted my initial thoughts HERE.

Not much has changed in my mind. I think Las Vegas Events’ bid was a low-ball effort and undeserving of a realistic agreement for the city’s marketing partner, which was created to assist in persuading top-quality events to be part of Sin City’s landscape. The NFR has been LVE’s marquee event and will continue to be if things are handled correctly.

On Sunday afternoon, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s board voted 6-3 to reject LVE’s bid to retain the NFR; the cowboys competing at this year’s NFR not only supported the board’s decision, they urged their representatives to say no to the offer.

Ted Harbin TwisTED Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTED Rodeo

“Las Vegas sent them a contract. They read it. They told us, ‘Don’t approve the contract,’ ” Bret Tonozzi, a team roper and a board member who represents timed-event contestants, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this week. “There’s not enough money for them. They said they couldn’t survive on that for the next 10 years. They truly want to go back. They can’t afford it. It’s pretty simple.”

Review-Journal stories have quoted LVE president Pat Christenson saying that the rejection was seen by Las Vegas board members as the final word in negotiations; the PRCA has indicated a counter offer is in the works.

Who could blame LVE for questioning the PRCA’s stance? The LVE bid has been on the table for 18 months, far too long of a time when trying to negotiate on good terms. While Las Vegas power players are amazing at playing the waiting game, even a year and a half is a little long. The question is, when did the 104 PRCA cowboys at this year’s NFR first get their hands on the contract? Why did it take the PRCA so long to decide on LVE’s bid?

Had the PRCA board responded to LVE 15 months ago with, “Sorry, that’s not enough; here’s our counter,” then we could well be on our way to keeping rodeo’s marquee event in the city that hosts it best. Instead, any counter offer must be made quickly. Now the rodeo world is in hurry-up mode for no particular reason.

The PRCA suffers with a major communication problem and has for some time. The board doesn’t have to take all this pressure on by itself. It is a democratic board, with representatives serving a constituency. If the association truly is interested in representing all its membership – contestants, contract personnel, stock contractors, committees, etc. – then it has the means to do so if it adjusts its way of doing things.

You see, the PRCA is suffering from a paper overload. Most everything that happens has an extensive paper trail. Ballots are sent through traditional mail, even though many contestants aren’t home to receive them – in many instances, it’s for months at a time. When they get home from the rodeo trail, a ballot for end-of-the-year awards for the PRCA is the last thing that will be opened. That’s why the same winners are announced year after year during the annual awards banquet, which takes place the night before the opening go-round of the NFR.

Technology allows for better communication and better service to its membership, so why doesn’t the PRCA pursue it? For instance, all votes can be done online, and all card-holders should be able to help make decisions with the click of a button on their cell phones. If we can select the PRCA’s photo of the year online, why aren’t the members allowed to vote on important topics that affect the association’s business decisions?

Better business decisions that affect the entire gamut of members can be made with a few simple clicks on a phone.

Until that happens, though, we’ve got some big things on the table for rodeo’s future. Las Vegas Events has to figure out a way to bring the money up enough to keep the NFR in the Nevada desert for years to come. The PRCA must do a better job of communicating with LVE, so it has time to find the adequate sponsorships to cover the increased costs while keeping ticket prices in the perfect range for fans.

There is a $90 million-plus non-gaming economic impact to Las Vegas that could be affected by what happens over the next few weeks. Yes, that’s why it’s imperative LVE step up with the finances needed to keep the NFR in town; no other rodeo event will bring that much economic impact to Sin City in early December, no matter how special it is. The reason an average of 150,000 people are in Las Vegas per day during those 10 days is because of the NFR.

Las Vegas will not see that type of economic boon without the NFR. It needs the finals more than LVE is willing to admit. Hopefully all will figure out the way to the solution quickly.

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