LAS VEGAS (AP) — The marquee National Finals Rodeo is moving this year from Las Vegas to Arlington, Texas, due to coronavirus restrictions, event officials announced Wednesday.
Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and Texas Rangers officials said the Western horse sports championship will be held Dec. 3-12 at Globe Life Field, a retractable-roof stadium that opened this year and seats more than 40,000 people.
Texas has 50% occupancy guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and rodeo officials project up to 17,000 ticket-buyers daily — with seats spaced apart and sold in groups of four, masks required and hand-sanitizing stations added.
In a statement, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams called the event the Super Bowl of rodeo.
"We are a rodeo city and we've roped a big one," said Betsy Price, mayor of nearby Fort Worth.
Spinoff events including a Cowboy Christmas shopping event, the Wrangler NFR 2020 experience and the rodeo association annual convention are scheduled to be held at area sites.
The National Finals Rodeo got its start in 1959 at the Dallas State Fairgrounds, and later moved to Oklahoma City.
The championships moved to Las Vegas in 1985, and usually draw 17,000 fans each night for 10 nights at the Thomas & Mack Center near the Las Vegas Strip. It is now sponsored by Wrangler.
Pat Christenson, president of event organizer Las Vegas Events, said no single event has a bigger impact on Las Vegas than the National Finals Rodeo.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimated the total economic effect of the event in 2019 at nearly $176 million.
In a statement, Christenson said the Las Vegas contract with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association would be extended one additional year, through 2025.