Kats Goes Cowboy: PRCA chief says it’s too early to worry about NFR leaving town

Karl Stressman, alleviating the fears of the NFR pulling out of Vegas.
Photo: John Katsilometes

If “crotchety” could be applied only in its most flattering context, Harry Vold is that. He’s an old hand with old hands, and his ears ain’t what they used to be, either.

But old man Harry knows where his heart is.

Thomas & Mack NFR Timelapse

Vold is a National Finals Rodeo executive who has been involved in the Super Bowl of the sport since Day 1, back in 1959. During Tuesday’s regular pre-show production meeting, leading up to the fifth go-round of the NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center, NFR Executive General Manager Shawn Davis (celebrating his 70th birthday in a memorable manner, to be outlined in an upcoming column) went around the room to see if anyone present had anything to add.

And Vold, an 86-year-old stock contractor who works out of Avondale, Colo., spoke.

“I want to say something,” he started, earnestly tapping his right fist on the conference room table. “The NFR needs to stay here! Everyone here should agree to start the negotiation process now, because 2014 will be on us before we know it! This is a special event, and it needs to be in Las Vegas!”

Everyone in the room applauded, including the three men seated at the front: Davis, Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Commissioner Karl Stressman. It seemed no one dared not applaud.

But will the clapping lead to a more secure future for the NFR in Las Vegas after 2014? That’s when the PRCA’s contract to hold the event in our city times out, and tourism officials would hate to see Vegas wind up in the same spot as Oklahoma City in 1984, watching the event leave for a more appealing partner. Dallas, or rather Arlington, Texas, is where most of that speculation is centered, with Cowboys Stadium as the most obvious outpost for the NFR if it leaves Las Vegas.

Weary of such chitchat, Stressman said during a midday news conference at the Thomas & Mack that the PRCA is quite happy in Vegas, and there is no need to worry -- today, five years before the contract expires -- about the NFR’s long-term viability here.

“We have a great relationship with Las Vegas Events,” Stressman said, gesturing toward Christenson, seated to his left, during the news conference. “We have not talked about the future of the NFR, in terms of whether we’re going to move somewhere. Most of the information that comes out does not come from the PRCA or from LVE, I can assure you.”

Stressman said he and LVE would begin negotiating for the future of the NFR “one of these days, soon,” after both sides get through this year’s event at the Thomas & Mack.

“ Is it impossible (the NFR) would move? I would say nothing is impossible,” Stressman continued. “Is it a situation that Pat and I are at odds? Absolutely not. We love Vegas. This is a great place to have the National Finals Rodeo. There’s no place else in the country that the entertainment is what it is today.

“(But) I’d be lying if I didn’t stand up here and say I’m going to press Pat for some more money for our contestants. I think that’s what my job is, to make sure that happens.”

Having disclosed that obvious negotiating objective, Stressman appeased the feelings of anyone concerned about the event pulling out in 2015.

“We have no reason in the world to think we wouldn't certainly continue our relationship with the LVE and LVCVA and Las Vegas,” he said. “That’s the plan, unless something changes between now and then, but I don’t think it will. … We have five years left. We don’t need to get in any big hurry.”

We’ll believe that. Can’t say that Harry Vold would, though.

• The reason for the news conference was to announce that the NFR is leaving ESPN Classic, where this year’s event is televised, for Great American Country. This is a great network if you have DirectTV, as it is not available on Cox Communications in Las Vegas. The 2011 and 2012 events are set for GAC, owned by the same company that operates The Food Network. The reach of GAC is about 10 million more homes than those that carry ESPN Classic.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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