SBD/Issue 33/Leagues & Governing Bodies

PBR Opening '07 World Finals In Vegas To Near Sellout Crowd

The PBR opens its '07 World Finals in Las Vegas Friday night only about 500 seats short of a sellout for all seven sessions. Those seats are all for next Thursday night's performance at the Thomas & Mack Center, the first of four sessions in the 16,700-seat arena. "Thursdays are a challenge for us," said CEO Randy Bernard, "but we'll be close." The other three sessions at the arena sold out despite Bernard bumping up the price on 1,200 seats from $80 to $250 each. Those 1,200 were right behind seats priced at $175 last year, but have also increased to $250, giving the PBR 3,000 seats at that price. The Finals open tonight with the first of three sessions in the nearby Mandalay Events Center, which seats 8,600.

McBride Could Surpass $2M
In Earnings This Season
UNEXPECTED DRAMA: Justin McBride, the PBR points leader going into the Finals, was hospitalized briefly this week with a case of viral meningitis. McBride, who released a country music CD this week that's being sold on the PBR Web site, had to cancel a L.A. media tour. In a statement, he reminded fans that he is used to adversity at the Finals, having ridden with a punctured lung in '03 and a broken ankle in '04. Because of his points standing and the $1M payout to the Finals winner, McBride could take home more than $2M this year if he wins the championship, the biggest year ever for a PBR cowboy.

EARLY SALES FOR '08: Tickets for the first half of the '08 season went on sale this week for PBR fan club members, and Bernard said about $500,000 worth were sold in the first three days. Last year the entire schedule was released at once during the first week of December, but with some late '08 details still being worked out, Bernard decided to go ahead and open sales for the first half of the year, reasoning that he might get a sales boost when the rest of the schedule comes out. "Where last year some people might have looked at the entire schedule and bought tickets for the one event closest to them, this year they might buy for a close event right now, then see another one when we release the rest of the schedule," he said. Last year, the PBR sold about $700,000 in tickets during the first week that the full schedule was released. The top-selling '08 events so far are Worcester, Massachusetts, St. Louis and N.Y.

OFF THE CALENDAR: Missing from the '08 schedule is the Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. PBR Clash, which was held last January in Charlotte but drew only about 15,000 fans over three days. "Dale Jr. is a huge name," said Bernard, "but we might have been better off doing something with him in a market where he isn't seen quite as often." Bernard didn't abandon North Carolina, scheduling Winston-Salem for February 1-2. "I do think that is a good time of year to be in North Carolina," he said. "It's after football, but before NASCAR." The PBR dropped its New Orleans event, held this year on March 3-4, though Bernard said he is looking for another date in the city. "Our local TV ratings are unbelievable in that market," he said. "We did an 8 (rating) there. If we don't get back next year, then definitely the year after." Also missing is the Built Ford Tough Invitational in Auburn Hills, Michigan, held this year on April 13-14. "The economy there is in too much of a recession," Bernard said. "It does not make sense to be there right now, even though it's in Ford's back yard."

NEW STOPS: In addition to the Winston-Salem date, Bernard added a January 26-27 stop in Albany at the behest of his friend George Hearst, chairman of the Hearst Corp., which owns the Albany Times-Union. The PBR turned what was a one-day Atlanta event, held this year in February, into a two-day event to be held December 29-30. It also dropped a February Tampa date, but Bernard expects to add an Orlando event to the second half of '08. The PBR will return to Baltimore on February 29, it's first time back in the city since '01, and in May will make its first stop ever in Des Moines.

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