LAS VEGAS - The recent numbers released out of Las Vegas show that the sport of ProRodeo is very strong.- As the 48th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo concluded its ten-day run Dec. 9, attendance figures at the Thomas and Mack Center totaled 175,649, including a record attendance of 18,224 during the 10th and final performance.

December has always been a slow month for Las Vegas and the NFR has been a boon to the city since it arrived in 1985.- The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates that the 2006 Wrangler NFR attracted more than 40,000 out-of-town visitors, resulting in a total non-gaming economic impact of more than $48 million.-

An agreement between Las Vegas Events and the PRCA prior to the start of the 2005 event will keep the world's richest rodeo in Las Vegas through 2014.- The purse in 2006 was $5.375 million, escalating to $6.375 million in 2014.- The guarantee to each Wrangler NFR contestant increased from $6,197 under the previous contract to $10,000 in 2006.- The contestant's guarantee will escalate to $14,500 in 2014.

"The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo continues to be a signature event for Las Vegas," said Pat Christenson, president of LVE.- "Each year, the city opens its arms to the competitors and rodeo enthusiasts from around the country. -We will continue to look for ways to grow our partnership with the PRCA and build the NFR experience in Las Vegas, the world's most exciting city."

PRCA Commissioner Troy Ellerman said he is pleased with the new contract and is excited about the future.

"I think the reality is that it needed fixed financially and we fixed it financially and now we have to do some things in the rodeo business to help the cowboys."-

As always, the event produced some nail-biting races that came down to the 10th and final performance to decide a world championship.

---- "This year's Wrangler NFR was exciting and action-packed on a nightly basis," said Ellerman. -"I think rodeo fans were treated to one of the best Wrangler NFRs in history, one that they won't soon forget. -From top to bottom, it was a great event, and I'm proud to have our current group of world champions representing the best the sport of ProRodeo has to offer."

World Champion All-Around Cowboy Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, set the PRCA's single-season earnings record en route to winning his fourth all-around buckle and fifth world title overall. -He won $329,924 in 2006, breaking the mark of $320,766 set last year by bull rider Matt Austin.- The other world champions included Will Lowe, bareback riding; Dean Gorsuch, steer wrestling; Matt Sherwood, team roping (header); Allen Bach, team roping (heeler); Chad Ferley, saddle bronc riding; Cody Ohl, tie-down roping; Mary Burger, barrel racing; and B.J. Schumacher, bull riding.

The Wrangler NFR has put Las Vegas and the Thomas and Mack Center on the map and it's traditionally one of the hardest tickets to obtain in Vegas.

"The NFR has been the staple of our Thomas and Mack Center event schedule," said Daren Libonati, executive director of the Thomas and Mack Center.- "Its world-wide appeal creates so many other ancillary opportunities for our venues."

With capacity crowds once again at the Thomas and Mack Center, Ellerman thinks it may be time for a new building in Las Vegas.

"It has out-grown this building," he said.- "We have parking issues and you've people that can't get tickets to it, which is a good thing, but they fill it up and I think it's time to talk about a new building."

The 2007 Wrangler NFR began on Thursday, Dec. 6, and ran through Saturday, Dec. 15.

-Butch Thurman of Pendleton, Ore., has covered professional rodeo for 26 years.- His email address is (butch@rodeosportsupdate.com)

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