LAS VEGAS – The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino has long been associated with the greatest events in Las Vegas.
The trend continues with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December. The MGM Grand will be one of the host hotels for professional rodeo’s championship event when it takes place Dec. 6-15 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. It’s fitting stature for “The Home of Champions.”
“I think it was just the logical step,” said Trevor Brazile, a 16-time world champion from Decatur, Texas. “It seemed like the traffic was migrating that way anyway. It’s just become the spot to be during the NFR.
“I think it’s the ‘The Home of Champions’ and everybody else at the NFR. The MGM has become the social event of the national finals.”
The “home” aspect of it is something ProRodeo’s top contestants take to heart.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to stay at the MGM the last few years,” said Will Lowe, a three-time world champion bareback rider from Canyon, Texas. “They’ve always been fantastic. You can’t pick a better place to stay in Vegas.”
The ever-expanding NFR experience was developed by Tim Kelly, the MGM Grand’s vice president.
“Partnering with the PRCA is another example of MGM Grand’scommitment to the Western lifestyle and the sport of ProRodeo,” Kelly said. “We look forward to providing the loyal PRCA members and fans a year-round home in Las Vegas.”
Kelly’s foresight led to the development of the nightly after party, the Gold Buckle Zone, and he enlisted the assistance of Sharil Palaggi, luxury sales specialist for the MGM Grand and Aria Sky Suites.
“Tim Kelly has been a trend setter among Las Vegas hotels during the NFR,” said Pete Carr, owner of Dallas-based Carr Pro Rodeo. “The MGM has become the place to be during the NFR, and it’s because of Tim’s innovative ideas that are attracting cowboys, cowgirls and fans. The MGM is accommodating and inviting, and that is a direct reflection of what Tim and his team has put together.”
The MGM Grand’s ties to rodeo have extended well beyond the two weeks the NFR is in Las Vegas.
“The best part of it is that I know I can call Sharil any time I’m going to be in Las Vegas, and she takes care of anything I need,” said Casey Colletti, a 2011 NFR bareback rider from Pueblo, Colo. “That’s the great part of being part of the MGM, plus the after party is the place to be in Vegas after the NFR anyway.”
The MGM Grand is home of the most gold buckles under one roof: 79 as of last count. From Brazile, the top cowboy in the game, to a pair of two-time world champion barrel racers – Brittany Pozzi of Victoria, Texas, and Lindsay Sears of Nanton, Alberta – the resort can stand quite confident in its ascertain of being “The Home of Champions.”
“That’s one of the things that’s great about it,” said Sears, the reigning world champion who also won the gold buckle in 2008. “Not only does the MGM promote rodeo, but they promote so many other venues, from boxing to the music awards.
“There’s so much going on at the hotel, and there’s always a variety of things to do. That’s what’s so cool about the MGM.”
The list of rodeo’s greatest that make the MGM Grand their home is long and includes ProRodeo Hall of Famers like Roy Cooper and Billy Etbauer. Many of the other 14 cowboys and cowgirls surely will find their place in the Colorado Springs museum: Brazile is a sure enshrinement, but one can expect the same of team ropers Rich Skelton and Speed Williams, who won eight world championships together, and Bobby Mote, a four-time bareback riding world champion from Culver, Ore.
“I think it’s great that the MGM is a host hotel,” Mote said. “They’ve been the place to be during the NFR every year anyway, so they should be a host hotel. It’s the best place to stay in Las Vegas, and the service is second to none.”
From top-of-the-line rooms to the best eateries in town, Mote and his cohorts find the creature comforts they need for caring for their families while also preparing each night to perform at the top of their game.
“Once you’re there, there’s no reason to leave the property other than go to the Thomas & Mack,” Mote said. “The combinations are terrific. No matter what your taste is when you want to go out and eat, they’ve got a restaurant.”
The amenities are wonderful, but there’s also much more that goes into rodeo’s greatest being part of the MGM experience.
“They’ve had such a great collective effort in making it a great place during the NFR,” Brazile said. “It’s cowboy friendly. It is home to probably the best live remote NFR show there is in town at the Hollywood Theatre. That’s probably the second hardest ticket to get in town that week, other than getting into the Thomas & Mack.”
From hosting portions of the Miss Rodeo America Pageant to the NRS Shopping Experience to the nightly NFR after party at the Gold Buckle Zone, the MGM Grand is the one stop rodeo contestants, personnel and fans want to make in early December.
“In rodeo, we’ve had a lot of great events there in the Grand Garden Arena,” said Lowe, who first qualified for the NFR in 2002. “I’ve been fortunate to ride over there when we had a finale there. I always liked it there. It’s special to be part of an organization that promotes so many things about the world of sports.”
If anyone wants to see the best that are playing for the biggest pay in ProRodeo, the chances of finding them at the MGM Grand is great.
“It’s a great place to stay for the NFR,” Sears said. “They really promote the rodeo. There’s a lot going on at the hotel that involved the NFR, and you can definitely go to the MGM and have the full NFR experience.
“They’re always showing the rodeo, and then there’s the trade show and the after-party. I think the MGM has done a great job of promoting the rodeo and promoting us contestants. That’s important for us.”
It’s important to fans, too, and that’s something that Sears considers each time she runs into fans, whether eating with family or during an autograph session.
“When I was younger and coming to Las Vegas for the NFR, a big deal to me was getting to see and meet my idols,” Sears said. “I wanted to see the people I looked up to and the people that were competing at that time. I never got that experience and that opportunity.
“I think the MGM makes the contestants available and are promoting them through pictures all over the hotel, and that the fans get the chance to meet us. For me, I get the chance to say hi and personally meet them. The MGM provides a personal connection. The MGM promotes us like we are stars. That’s what rodeo needs, and that’s what rodeo is lacking. I want to meet every little girl that I can possibly meet, and the MGM gives us the opportunity to let that happen.”