Using state funds from an economic development program, Tarrant County approved a $1.5 million agreement with Visit Fort Worth. The agreement ensures Fort Worth will host the PBR World Finals through 2024.
“This is not just a one-time deal. … We’re really encouraged by the results of year one,” Visit Fort Worth CEO Bob Jameson said. “For us, it’s another success story.”
The event brought in an estimated $23 million in 2022, according to Visit Fort Worth. The tourism group predicts the economic impact of events like the PBR World Finals by contacting past host cities to find out their economic impact, then speaking with event planners who predict attendance and hotel occupancy.
After the event, Visit Fort Worth compares actual attendance numbers to come up with an economic impact. In 2022, 150,000 people attended the PBR World Finals.
The city of Fort Worth and Arlington approached the county to contribute to a monetary deal with Professional Bull Riders Inc. with the understanding that the organization is relocating its corporate headquarters to the county, Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius said.
Professional Bull Riders Inc. relocated 40 employees to work in Fort Worth prior to the World Championship event, but hasn’t fully relocated. The county expects a $28 million annual economic impact to the county over the course of the three-year contract to host the PBR World Finals. Experience and awareness of the event’s presence in Fort Worth should boost attendance, bringing in more revenue than the 2022 event, Jameson said.
“Whenever you do business investments, what you look for is a return on investment, and it has to be something much greater than simply a one to one,” Maenius said.
The county approved the allocation with the understanding that the city of Fort Worth would match the investment with its own $1.5 million allocation. The city approved that $1.5 million allocation in October as part of a $6 million investment of American Rescue Plan Act dollars into Visit Fort Worth.
Visit Fort Worth received another $1.5 million from Texas’ State Event Trust Fund to secure the Professional Bull Riders Inc. event. The state fund provides up-front money to host events in Texas cities, and Jameson described it as a major asset to organizations like Visit Fort Worth looking to attract events to its city.
The fund uses a formula to predict the economic impact of a given event. The state initially promised $2 million to Visit Fort Worth, but a change in its funding formula reduced the award amount to $1.5 million annually.
“We had kind of a last-minute issue to respond to,” Jameson said.
Despite a $500,000 shortfall, Visit Fort Worth is responsible for covering only half of the amount. Professional Bull Riders Inc. agreed to split the difference in budget shortfall with Visit Fort Worth, which hopes to use federal funds from the city of Fort Worth to fulfill that obligation.
The city plans to vote to provide $750,000 in funding to Visit Fort Worth in August to make up for the budget shortfall. Going forward, Visit Fort Worth will be able to better predict state funding and plan accordingly, Jameson said.
“We adapt to that and move on, and are grateful that’s a resource available to us,” Jameson said.
The $3.75 million investment is an initial investment to bridge a funding gap for Professional Bull Riders Inc. The organization hopes to secure state funds by 2026, solidifying its long-term presence in Tarrant County.
The event qualifies for the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Program, which is the next level in state support, Jameson said. Professional Bull Riders, Inc. is working to be included in that legislation.
“The founder and CEO (of Professional Bull Riders) was looking for a partner to help him bridge the gap financially for a short time … so by the time the 2025 competition rolls around, the state will be able to support them in a significant way,” Jameson said.
Professional Bull Riders made the initial move from Las Vegas to Tarrant County in 2020. While Nevada enforced restrictions on spectator events during a spike in COVID cases, Professional Bull Riders was able to hold its World Championship competition in Arlington.
Las Vegas was the World Championship’s home since the event’s inception in 1994. Improvements to the Stockyards made Fort Worth a prime location for the world finals and PBR’s corporate headquarters, Jameson said.
“The decision should not be viewed as a negative toward Las Vegas. It was about taking advantage of the cowboy renaissance that is going on in Fort Worth,” PBR chief executive Sean Gleason said to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
After the temporary 2020 move, the organization promised the World Championship to Dickies Arena until 2024 and a corporate relocation to Fort Worth. To make the move possible, PBR shortened its 2022 season.
Professional Bull Riders also will continue to hold events in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved a $6.4 million deal to host a Professional Bull Riders team bull-riding championship event.
The deal locks the team event in Las Vegas through 2026. The Las Vegas visitor’s authority predicts $39.8 million in total economic impact each year, the Review-Journal reports. The team-series will also host events in Tarrant County, including a team series draft May 23 in Arlington.
“This was a very ambitious undertaking for Professional Bull Riders Inc.,” Jameson said. “To pick up and move from where you’ve been, all those things strain that organization, which just tells you how important it was to them to be here and to be successful. ”
In exchange for the three-year contract to host the world championship, Visit Fort Worth promised compatibility between the city and Professional Bull Riders Inc. and community collaboration. Sharing costs is one way to demonstrate a willingness to collaborate.
“We did have to figure out how to help them with their costs of hosting it because Las Vegas has a significant bank account to spend on these, and they often buy events,” Jameson said
County officials view the Professional Bull Riders Inc. event as a magnet for other major sporting events, Maenius said. The event, and its respective advertising, will continue to push Fort Worth’s updated branding as a major destination for events, Jameson said.
“These folks are taking a risk to make the move, and we’re taking a bit of a risk to be here in support,” Jameson said.
Editors note: This story has been updated to include attendance numbers for the event that was not available at the time of publication. Also, the story has been updated to include the correct title of board member Mitch Whitten
Disclosure: Mitch Whitten, chief operating officer for Visit Fort Worth, is a board member of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.