Las Vegas Events, MGM Resorts pursue deal for Pac-12 tourney


Pat Christenson is convinced there is room in Las Vegas for one more college basketball conference tournament in March.

Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, has teamed with MGM Resorts to submit a bid to the Pacific-12 Conference to bring its postseason tournament here for five years starting in 2013. The Pac-12's contract with Staples Center in Los Angeles ends after this season.

"I don't think any other city can offer what we do," Christenson said Friday. "Not only can this city handle it, but by having four (tournaments), it solidifies our position of owning basketball in March."

The Mountain West Conference plays its tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center, and the West Coast and the Western Athletic conferences are at Orleans Arena.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has said he'll consider moving one of his league's showcase events to a neutral site. In a recent interview, he told Bloomberg News he believes Las Vegas is a destination that fans would travel to.

Scott declined an interview request, but issued a statement Friday on Las Vegas being a possible landing spot for the conference tournament.

"Las Vegas is one of several desirable locations that we are currently evaluating," Scott said. "We have many cities that have expressed interest, and we want to create the most exciting environment and best experience for our student-athletes and fans."

Seattle, Salt Lake City and several Pac-12 campus sites also have submitted bids. According to Danette Leighton, the Pac-12's chief marketing officer, no proposal has been eliminated and there is no timetable for making a decision.

"It's a pretty big decision, and we want to make sure we do our due diligence," she said. "We don't want to rush it."

The Pac-12 last spring put out a request for proposals to host the tournament. This spring, the Pac-12 Council will review the proposals and make a recommendation. Once a tournament site is chosen, final approval must come from the university presidents and Scott.

The MGM Grand Garden, which seats 16,200 for boxing and approximately 12,000 for hockey, probably would seat around 13,000 for basketball, an event it has never hosted in its 18-year existence. It also lacks luxury suites and club seats that many of competing venues have.

However, the venue provides a neutral environment and enough hotel rooms and meeting space for the Pac-12 to satisfy teams, fans, corporate sponsors and league officials. Most of all, the cache of Las Vegas as a destination could be the decisive factor in boosting the tournament's sagging attendance.

The longest flight from a Pac-12 city to Las Vegas is 2½ hours, and fans from five schools (Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Southern California) could drive here in six hours or less.

"The MGM is a willing partner," Christenson said. "They've been very aggressive in pursuing this."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

 

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