Osceola County commissioners met Sunday, Dec. 15 in a special session to discuss a proposal to bring the PRCA rodeo finals and other ancillary events to Osceola for at least the next 10 years. Above, commission chairman Fred Hawkins Jr. signs into effect a 90-day proposal to finalize the agreement between the county and the PRCA.
By Peter Covino
Arts & Entertainment Editor
In an historic Sunday meeting of the Osceola County Commission, commissioners agreed today to begin the process that would bring the National Finals Rodeo, as well as build a new 24,000-seat arena, to Osceola County.
Commissioners voted 5-0 at the special meeting and signed a “memorandum of understanding” between the county, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and American Music Resort, to set into a motion a possible agreement to bring the rodeo finals to Kissimmee for a minimum of 10 years.
The rodeo is one of the biggest annual events in Las Vegas and sells out every year, said Osceola County Manager Don Fisher, bringing in $65 million in revenue to that city each year.
The rodeo could be part of a larger agreement with American Music Resort Properties. AMR has proposed the development of a $1.5 billion AMR project that will include hotels, retail space, conference centers, restaurants and multiple performance venues.
AMR has leased a 30-acre site for the project.
That part of the proposal was not discussed at the Sunday meeting by the commission.
Under the proposed agreement the county will guarantee to provide a 24,000-seat enclosed arena ready for occupancy no later than October 15, 2016. During the time the Osceola County facility is under construction, the 2015 rodeo finals would be held at the Amway Center in Orlando.
The agreement would have a nominal term of 20 years, with either the county or the PRCA able to leave the agreement after 10. Both sides will have 90 days to finalize the agreement.
The county will guarantee it will provide $16 million annually to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) for purse money and administrative costs. The county will receive ticket and concession revenue only to the point that it recoups the guaranty. Excess revenue would be split between the PRCA and American Music Resort.
The new arena would be built near the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, Fisher said.
Funding would come from the county’s resort motel/hotel bed tax.
In addition to the rodeo, the PRCA also would hold several additional events in the county, including Cowboy Christmas, Cowboy FanFest and the Miss Rodeo America Pageant.
The PRCA announced the proposal simultaneously at their own meeting today as well.
The commission was unanimous in its praise for the proposal, which could have significant impact on the area’s economy and would be a major shot in the arm to the county’s rodeo and cowboy heritage.
“This is an historic proposal” for Osceola County, County Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins Jr. said. “I’m pro-rodeo and a Silver Spurs member,” and (PRCA) is a tremendous organization.”
Commissioner Frank Attkisson said it is a win situation for the PRCA as well.
“We have 90 million visitors a year,” to Central Florida, and rodeo visitors will have so many more opportunities here with theme parks such as Disney World, he said. “You can’t do that in Vegas.”
Hawkins called it a perfect fit for the rodeo and the county with its rich cattle ranching history.
“It’s the World Series and the Super Bowl,” Attkisson said.
“It will put Osceola County on the map as a tourist destination,” County Commissioner Mike Harford said.
Area tourism officials shared that enthusiasm.
“It’s a game changer for us,” said Mark Miller, chairman of the W. U.S. 192 Redevelopment Authority. “I couldn’t be happier.” It will mean many business opportunities for development in the west end of the county.
“Wow,” said Kriss Titus, executive director of the Kissimmee Tourism Education Association. “The tourism industry will be thrilled about this. It is the best thing for tourism ever.”
County commissioners appeared to be on a fast track to get the ball rolling on the project.
Attkisson proposed getting PRCA officials here in January to go over details and maybe finalizing a deal 30 days after that. Ideally, the commission could make the official announcement at the annual Silver Spurs Rodeo in February.
Other financial details in the proposal include:
Upon completion, the county will acquire the arena building for a purchase price of $50 million. The purchase price will consist $34 million of currently available tourism development taxes, $8 million of tourism development taxes to be appropriated in 2014-15 and $8 million of tourist development taxes for 2015-16.
The National Finals Rodeo is held over a 15-day period usually in December or late November with a minimum average general seating ticket cost of $71.
Under the proposal, Osceola Heritage Park will be made available to the PCRA for staging and peripheral events and the county also would designate each December as National Finals Rodeo Month and also hold a rodeo day parade.
The County Manager thanked both the city of Orlando and the Orlando Magic for their help in getting the proposal this far. The Magic have agreed to submit a blackout request for games to the NBA to bring the rodeo finals to Orlando at the Amway Center for the first year of the agreement (while the new arena is under construction).