The marquee National Finals Rodeo is moving this year from Las Vegas to Arlington, due to coronavirus restrictions, event officials announced Wednesday.
Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and Texas Rangers officials said the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) 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.
State economic development officials, along with Arlington and Fort Worth leaders, made the announcement Sept. 9 at Globe Life Field.
“We are a rodeo city and we’ve roped a big one,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said in a news release. “The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is an incredible win for our region and another example of how Fort Worth can host major events safely during this unprecedented time. This summer, Fort Worth has hosted major, national events in golf, racing and bull riding. Sporting events like the Wrangler NFR are a vital part of our visitor economy that creates jobs and supports our recovery.”
The event will be the first non-baseball event at the new park.
“We are honored that the PRCA selected Globe Life Field to host the 2020 Wrangler Nationals Final Rodeo and are thrilled to be a small part of bringing this world-class event back to Texas,” said Neil Leibman, chief operating officer of the Texas Rangers.
The PRCA began looking for an alternate venue earlier in the summer. The State of Texas, the Texas Rangers and Globe Life Field immediately made it known they were interested, officials said. Roping the PRCA has been a partnership among Texas, Globe Life Field, the cities of Arlington and Fort Worth, the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Fort Worth, and the Sports Commissions of both Arlington and Fort Worth, according to a news release.
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.
The event has been held for many years in Las Vegas. Because of limitations on events in Las Vegas, the PRCA began looking for another site earlier this year.
“We are excited for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to take place this year at Globe Life Field,” said Allen Montgomery, Vice President and General Manager, Wrangler Western Wear. “The health and safety of the fans, cowboys and cowgirls is of the highest priority, and we are grateful to the participating organizations for their work to put together a comprehensive plan that will allow everyone to enjoy a safe and fun event.”
Due to the pandemic, seats this year will be sold in groups of four with separation between groups. Contact-limiting measures, such as mobile tickets, have been implemented throughout the event. There will also be metal detector screenings and a no-bag policy at entries on performance nights.
“From cattle drives, museums and even the names of our professional sporting teams, our love of cowboy culture runs deep here in Tarrant County,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said. “I can think of no better choice for the Super Bowl of rodeo than to be hosted here in the heart of North Texas. Arlington and Fort Worth have many family friendly attractions and rich experiences to offer rodeo fans who will be traveling from across the country to cheer on these professional cowboys as they strive to set new records and achieve their American Dream in the arena.”
Fort Worth will also play host to the Wrangler NFR 2020 experience, as the annual PRCA Convention will be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2020, in addition to the Cowboy Christmas and other fan-favorite events.
Tickets for Wrangler NFR 2020 will go on sale to the public Sept. 25, 2020 via texasrangers.com/NFR. Wrangler NFR season ticket holders will be invited to purchase tickets early beginning Sept. 16, 2020. Wrangler NFR events and the PRCA awards ceremonies will be broadcast on the PRCA media partner, The Cowboy Channel. The PRCA on Cowboy Channel Plus app users will also be able to stream events both live and recorded.
The Associated Press contributed to this report