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PBR World Finals will ride on at AT&T Stadium, Cowtown Coliseum

A bull rider is bucked off during the 2022 Professional Bull Riders World Finals at Dickies Arena, 1911 Montgomery St.
Cristian ArguetaSoto
Fort Worth Report
A bull rider is bucked off during the 2022 Professional Bull Riders World Finals at Dickies Arena, 1911 Montgomery St.

Professional Bull Riders, Inc. will continue to split its world finals championship between Arlington and Fort Worth.

The historic Cowtown Coliseum will host the 2025 event May 8-11 and May 14-15 for the eliminations round and the “Ride for Redemption,” while AT&T Stadium will welcome spectators to the final showdown May 17-18.

Though the economic incentive agreement offered by city and county officials ends this year, PBR CEO Sean Gleason said the organization plans to host rounds of the world finals in Tarrant County “for a long time to come.”

“We were able to make the move and bring the PBR World Finals and the core of our office and operations to Fort Worth and Arlington,” Gleason said in an interview with the Fort Worth Report. “We felt like we were coming home for the first time in a long time.”

The event, previously held in Las Vegas for 28 years, has bounced between locations following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, hosted the event in 2020. The finals returned to Las Vegas in 2021.

That changed in 2022, when Fort Worth and Tarrant County offered a $3 million deal with PBR to bring the world finals to Fort Worth through 2024, in addition to a corporate relocation. Tarrant County made use of state funds from an economic development program, and the city utilized funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which had been allocated to Visit Fort Worth.

While Dickies Arena hosted the coveted event in 2022 and 2023, the world finals were not on the venue’s calendar in 2024.

Instead, Cowtown Coliseum hosted the initial rounds of the world finals May 9-12 and the “Ride for Redemption” May 15-16. AT&T Stadium hosted the remaining events May 17-19.

Dickies Arena officials declined to comment on the PBR World Finals.

The state Events Trust Fund contributed $1.7 million after the 2022 PBR World Finals in Fort Worth, and has not yet disbursed funding for the 2023 and 2024 events.

Gleason said there were several factors that led to the decision to move from Dickies to AT&T.

“Ultimately, we needed a bigger venue for the championships, and we didn’t need as big of a venue for the elimination rounds and the other stuff that we wanted to do with our format change,” he said. “(Dickies) didn’t fill the purpose for any of the world finals performances, but it’s the perfect venue for the PBR Team event and Rattler Days.”

Dickies Arena promoted an event at Will Rogers Auditorium on May 8, 2024, but did not list any events of its own May 9-16, when PBR World Finals events were at Cowtown Coliseum. AT&T Stadium hosted the remainder of the world finals May 17-19.
Dickies Arena
Dickies Arena promoted an event at Will Rogers Auditorium on May 8, 2024, but did not list any events of its own May 9-16, when PBR World Finals events were at Cowtown Coliseum. AT&T Stadium hosted the remainder of the world finals May 17-19.

PBR reports high attendance, long history with Tarrant County venues

PBR has a long history with both Cowtown Coliseum and AT&T Stadium. Shortly after PBR was established, Cowtown Coliseum hosted the group’s first event in 1993. The Coliseum also hosts a weekly PBR Stockyards Showcase.

AT&T Stadium first hosted a PBR event in 2010. At a press conference last year, Gleason noted what was then a 13-year-history with the venue, which set PBR’s single-day attendance record of 46,000.

“I’m happy to report that, collectively across the performances, this was the most attended PBR World Finals in our history, regardless of the number of performances and where it’s been located,” Gleason said in a recent interview with the Report. “So, this year was a big success for us.”

Attendance at all PBR World Finals events this year, including Kid Rock’s Rock N Rodeo, was 81,287, according to a PBR spokesperson.

“We move literally from one of the smallest venues (Cowtown Coliseum) that we have events in every year to the biggest — AT&T Stadium,” Gleason said. “It’s a different feel, but it’s a great platform and the right environment for celebrating the crowning of our champion every year.”

Two days of PBR’s team series event for the Texas Rattlers, the defending champions and local team, will be held at Dickies Arena in September, but the world team championships will continue to be held in Las Vegas.

Dickies Arena can host up to 14,000 for concerts but is limited to 9,300 capacity for rodeo performances. AT&T’s capacity is north of 80,000.

The recently renovated Cowtown Coliseum is a far more intimate space, with seats for more than 3,000 spectators.

Hosting part of the competition at the historic venue, which is surrounded by other Stockyards landmarks offering supporting activities, made sense for PBR and its visitors, said Tim Long, Cowtown Coliseum’s general manager.

“When they made the decision to come here, I was very honored,” he said. “We’re obviously a much smaller venue than they’re used to, but it was coming home for them. … I know a lot of the riders and many of our fans, and they really loved the idea of just so many things around us that they could go do in addition to just going to the event.”

Gleason said the performances at Cowtown are among his favorites.

“I have such reverence for the history and heritage of that building and the number of superstars in the Western sports space that have come through and ridden there,” Gleason said.

Regardless of venue, Arlington-Fort Worth partnership is ‘good for everybody’

When Arlington announced that PBR would move a portion of the finals to AT&T Stadium in 2023, Visit Fort Worth President and CEO Bob Jameson acknowledged that the move was happening earlier than expected. As late as May 2023, Dickies officials said they were in negotiations with PBR about future events.

Although PBR is no longer hosting its world finals competitions at Dickies, Jameson said Fort Worth still benefits from the event.

“It’s good for everybody. The partnership (with Arlington) will be visible again when the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game comes to Globe Life. We’ll still have thousands of hotel room nights being consumed here in Fort Worth, and we will have the opportunity to host the MLB draft in Cowtown Coliseum,” he said. “There’s a convenience of location there. We’re side by side with each other, and it’s just a natural pairing.”

In a separate interview, Arlington Mayor Jim Ross agreed. Both cities bring in revenue from the event’s division, and PBR benefits from the state’s reimbursement program for hosting a major event in Tarrant County.

“PBR is going back and forth, doing some events in Fort Worth and some events in Arlington. It just depends upon the size of the events and the type of arena that is needed,” Ross said. “I am fully supportive of that. I love Fort Worth. I love PBR. I think when PBR is here in Tarrant County, it is benefiting all of us.”

While Tarrant County officials contributed funds to PBR’s incentive package, Arlington did not offer additional dollars to persuade PBR to host events at AT&T Stadium. John Harvey, an economics professor at Texas Christian University, said that city leaders are put in a tough position when it comes to offering incentives to bring in business.

On the whole, Harvey said, these incentive packages can be counterproductive.

“All these local communities are competing with each other by cutting back on the tax revenue that they otherwise would have received,” Harvey said.

However, he is sympathetic to the limitations city leaders face.

“Studies suggest that where the firms go is where they wanted to go anyway, and the incentives didn’t have much to do with it,” Harvey said. “But if you’re in Fort Worth’s city government, one of the reasons you were elected was to increase the economic base for our community. Then what other tool do you have?”

Marcheta Fornoff covers arts and culture for the Fort Worth Report. Reach her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board. Read more about our editorial independence policyhere.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Marcheta Fornoff | Fort Worth Report