LAS VEGAS -- The horse trailer pulls in to the South Point and a barn bellman walks outside to greet the guests. Tack and saddles are collected, along with luggage, while you simultaneously check into your hotel room and horse stall.
With surveillance protecting the animals, an in-house farrier center and on-site veterinarian, many rodeo aficionados have made the South Point and its Equestrian Center their home base for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and satellite events.
Ryan Growney, South Point's general manager, said events such as Benny Binion's Bucking Horse and Bull Sale, which ran Thursday and comes again Saturday, and the Western Gift Show running through Dec. 15 help make the property a favorite among the NFR crowd.
In 2011, the 10-day rodeo reported an attendance of 175,275, which includes locals. Last year 44,975 out-of-town visitors came to Las Vegas for the rodeo, which brought an overall nongaming economic impact of $60.1 million to the city. But, NFR's economic impact may also be a little underreported.
Las Vegas Events measures only the attendees at the Thomas & Mack Center, but there are many live satellite feeds into hotels throughout the city, which also draw visitors. Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson has said he estimates there to be twice the number of people in those sites as there are at the event.
"It's the Super Bowl of the rodeo world," the South Point's Growney said.
And the south Strip hotel is in prime position to capitalize on every bit of that hype.
Starting with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Convention at the South Point held earlier this week, Growney said rodeo participants and attendees start showing up the weekend before the main event starts. About 1,800 attended the convention, but the 2,163-room hotel will be sold out for 10 straight nights during the rodeo.
"By Saturday the place is just busting at the seams," Growney said.
To prepare for the onslaught of customers - those with two and four legs - the South Point hires almost 100 temporary workers at the bell desk, front desk and security. And, a new valet is created especially for Dually trucks.
Growney noted these two weeks in December make it the best month of the year for the South Point. Although the property is sold out and has been for some time, there are probably still rooms available elsewhere if you're looking.
At Sam's Town, rooms were available off and on throughout the rodeo at $99 or $39 per evening, depending on the night. The Mirage, which is hosting Rodeo Vegas for 10 days, had rooms available ranging in price from $62 to $988 per night. Rodeo Vegas is the official after-party for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Caesars Palace, too, had rooms available, ranging in price from $99 to $499.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's Host Committee also is fully engaged this week, helping businesses and hotels get in on the cowboy action.
Expect to see limousine drivers from Executive and Lucky wearing NFR-branded cowboy hats, as well as employees from the Mob Museum, Steiner's, Hard Rock Cafe and Terrible's. Besides the hats, welcome kits can be requested from the Host Committee during citywide special events, and those often include buttons, stickers, event fact sheets and window decals.
"We're very excited about having the NFR here as you can well imagine," host committee Chairman Oscar Goodman said.
He called the rodeo a "phenomenal event that makes a huge difference to this entire community," before referring to the dark times when Las Vegas was "deader than a doornail" in December.
"We want to make sure they know how much we appreciate the fact they're here," Goodman finished.
Throughout the rodeo, businesses with a stake in tourism will post signs welcoming rodeo fans. Goodman said all the major properties are on board, as well as The Fremont Street Experience and McCarran International Airport.
"I think it's one of the few times there's been a galvanization in the community for one purpose," Goodman said.
The host committee consists of more than 500 volunteer ambassadors, and the group always is looking for more. To get involved, call 892-7691 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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