We announced Aug. 30 that entries for the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale were on track, and we would continue to keep you informed of the Finale XV status as we move along. Obviously, with the shutdown of events in the heart of the roping season, we all knew it would have its impact on qualification entries for this year’s Finale. Qualifiers since the re-opening have been up 20%-30%—making up ground. But even with the PPQ, the question remained: Would ropers push those qualification entries to the Finale?
It’s still a little early to tell. The last month of qualifiers and the accumulated earnings generates a lot of entries, with August and September being big qualification months. Plus, we pushed the Direct Entry deadline to Oct 26. What’s more, even with all of this activity and big horse events at South Point, the rumor mill has been persistent. Make no mistake—the fifteen annual Finale will continue its reign as the richest cowboy horse event in the world.
Ropers have asked us in the past week to tell them how many teams we have per division and to predict final payoffs. For the reasons we just described, it’s too early to do that. As this issue goes to press, there are about four weeks of entries left, and traditionally we get a lot of play right before the deadline, particularly in direct entries, accumulated entries and completion of team payments.
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At roughly four weeks away from the entry deadline, pending a major disaster, we can tell you that the bottom five divisions will all pay over $1 million each. The top three divisions, Open, #14.5 and #13.5, are behind as they always are until the final week of entries. That is just the nature of “the beast”.
Right now, we feel very confident that even with the effects of the shut-down early in the year, the Finale should top $10 million this year. If it tops out there, without additional growth, that would represent a 28% reduction from 2019. That takes into account the closed border to Canada. That is much better than what some, including us, had predicted earlier in the year. But financially this is still the premier cowboy event of the year and well worth any ropers time to attend. We will be surprised if even the NFR gets that close in payouts.
The PRCA and PBR were forced to move to Dallas this year because they simply cannot exist without spectators. But don’t confuse the term “no spectators allowed” in Vegas. In Vegas thee term “no spectators allowed” means ticketed events. Family and friends watch our Finale. Ours is not a ticketed event. Neither are we considered a spectator event. The gathering limitations have not been a problem at previous SP events and gatherings language is expected to be changed by November 1st.
When the NFR and PBR announced their relocation, some of our team ropers from Texas, Oklahoma and back East all requested that relocating the Finale would make it easier for them. Our answer was simply that the Finale would still be Las Vegas. But to further explain, taking into consideration Texas, Oklahoma and all states east, these ropers represent a little over 40% of the Finale entries each year. The majority of contestants are still from the Western states. West Texas and the panhandle of Texas, as a rule, follows the same demographic entry patterns as the Western United States . While we understood we might lose a few teams from Central Texas, East Texas, and Oklahoma, the risk to the Finale was much greater if we attempted to relocate, and persuade the Western states the relocation was for “their” good.
The 800 pound gorilla in this room is fear of COVID-19 within the roping community. We have watched the qualifiers all year long, and really all team roping events. WSTR qualifiers are up 20% to 30% across the board, and those attending showed little or no fear. In fact, in some cases, ropers were openly defiant of the masks. The perfect example was the recent Fort Worth roping. For weeks prior to the event, social media had plenty of comments about ropers who were not going because they had to wear the masks and all kinds of secondary issues. The final outcome was 6,400 teams in 5.5 days. We sympathize with those who can’t compete this year because of work issues and quarantine problems as a result of COVID-19. But having closely monitored ropers’ actions for the past several months, we wonder how much of the expressed concern is actually real and how much of it is, as the president says “fake news”.
Draw outs on pre-entry, limited-entry ropings occur each year and as they do, they can create an impression that it is a trend. Example one roper draws-out for an unspecified reason, his partner cannot get a replacement, so the partner pulls out. He had a second entry that now has the same problem because he lost a partner, thus the chain reaction. Since this chain reaction can occur in a very small area, they become cluster draw outs. This year is unusual, and we have begun much sooner than normal to assist with pairing incomplete ropers who have lost partners. Hopefully, this will blunt the cluster affect.
The Latest from South Point:
“Everything in the hotel is now open EXCEPT the Showroom and Grand View Lounge. All restaurants (50%), bars (50%), movies, bingo, bowling, spa, etc. are open. Our barrel race on Labor Day was WILDLY successful, with over 900 horses and no apparent problems anywhere.
All shopping centers in Vegas are open. Pretty much the only thing NOT open in Vegas are the showrooms, and “ticketed” entertainment anywhere in the city. But we are two months out, we fully expect Vegas regulations to look different by December.”
Thanks, Steve Stallworth, South Point