Take a look at this year’s Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame induction class. What do you see?
Andre Agassi built a nationally recognized charter school while dominating on the tennis court. Dana White built mixed martial arts into a worldwide brand. Bill Bobier built a basketball dynasty at Valley High School. Pat Christenson helped build Las Vegas into a special-events town. Chris Powell helped build and run a major league motor sports facility. They, along with professional golfer Stephanie Louden, will be honored May 31 at Orleans Arena.
At the recently built Las Vegas City Hall on Tuesday, several of the “builders” talked about the pet projects that brought them celebrity and the city worldwide recognition.
“I grew up here. I love this city a lot,” said White, 43, whose Ultimate Fighting Championship is based in Las Vegas and is a billion-dollar industry. “This is the fight capital of the world. Where else would you want to be? We do more shows here than anywhere else.”
Christenson, who worked at the Thomas & Mack Center from the day it opened in 1983 and was there for the arrival of the National Finals Rodeo in 1985, has been the president of Las Vegas Events since 2001. During his time at LVE, he has seen Las Vegas attract a number of major sporting events. He might be best known for helping cultivate the recent proliferation of basketball events: from the 2007 NBA All-Star Game to college postseason and regular-season tournaments to the NBA Summer League and USA Basketball using Las Vegas as its training camp for the Olympics and World Championships.
“I’m most proud of how we’ve connected and how we’ve been able to work with the hotels and the venues to bring these events to Las Vegas,” Christenson, 58, said. “ What we’ve done is take the best of sports and made it better.”
Powell came to Las Vegas in 1998. Since his arrival, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has generated more than $2.5 billion for the local economy. The former sports writer from North Carolina isn’t quite sure he deserves his spot in the hall. Under his guidance, the speedway has expanded to events outside motor sports, most notably the Electric Daisy Carnival.
“I’m a little uncomfortable with this honor,” said Powell, 53. “Bruton Smith is the one who had the vision, and he put his money behind that vision. I was just the manager to shepherd through his ideas. I consider my role in our growth to be very small. I have an incredible staff; they deserve this honor, and I share this with them.”
Bobier, who died in 2001 at age 71, coached 30 years and made his mark at Valley High School. The Vikings won four consecutive Nevada state titles and had a record of 215-100 before he retired in 1986. A native of Wichita, Kan., Bobier was a 1998 inductee into the National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame.
“He was a builder of men,” said Freddie Banks, who played for Bobier at Valley and also is a member of the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame (Class of 2010). “He took the time to show you how to be a player on the court and a man off of it. For a lot of young players, he was a true father figure.
“Bill never took shortcuts when it came to basketball. He played the percentages, and his teams did things and had success at a high percentage.”
Louden, 34, who attended Cimarron-Memorial High School as Stephanie Keever, won the 1996 state girls golf title. She earned a scholarship to Stanford and was a four-time All-American In 2001, Louden turned pro and has spent 11 years on the LPGA Tour. Now married with a son, she lives outside Dallas and has limited her competitive golf schedule.
“It’s a pretty impressive group to be going in with,” she said from Texas. “It’s a great honor, and it makes me feel good to see so many girls playing golf and to see UNLV have a women’s team.
“I never looked at myself as a pioneer. I was just trying to play and get to college. But hopefully this honor will inspire other girls in Las Vegas to take up golf.”
Tickets, priced at $250 per individual or $1,800 for a table of eight, are on sale through the Hall’s website — sportshalloffame.net.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.