Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s comments to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last month reportedly damaged Las Vegas’ chances of hosting the NBA upon the resumption of its season. But they apparently did not extinguish the possibility entirely.
Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry told CNBC on Thursday that the league will “probably” use two sites — Orlando on the East Coast and Las Vegas on the West Coast. Lasry’s comment came after the mayor strongly advocated for the city to re-open during a 25-minute interview with Cooper, prompting a report from The Athletic that the league was concerned about her comments.
Goodman did not return a call seeking comment, and her public information officer, Jace Radke, said she was not available.
Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort has emerged as a front-runner to host the league upon its return, per The Athletic, but ESPN reported that Las Vegas is still being considered as a regional site.
“Obviously in our minds (the NBA) would be something that would be great for the destination, because you’ve got the Las Vegas brand being involved with bringing these events, and then having live sports,” said Fletch Brunelle, the LVCVA’s vice president of marketing.
“To that end, even if it’s a fanless event, being part of that conversation, being part of that dialogue, having live sports back — people are so hungry for sports that having them here in Las Vegas would be a win for the destination,” he added.
The league declined comment, and commissioner Adam Silver told players on a conference call earlier this month that the best solution for a possible resumption involves one or two sites.
MGM Resorts International has offered to host the resumption of the NBA season in Las Vegas and has the requisite arena and hotel space. The company is an NBA partner, and its proposal centered around Mandalay Bay, which has 4,700 rooms and is connected to Mandalay Bay Convention Center — home the last two years to the league’s annual G League Winter Showcase.
Properties on the Strip are in an unincorporated part of Clark County and are not in Goodman’s jurisdiction. County Commissioner Michael Naft acknowledged that Goodman’s remarks may have damaged the city’s economic recovery and is understanding of the league’s trepidation.
“Event planners and CEOs are deciding now where to bring their meetings and shows in 2021 and beyond,” he said. “They’re all looking for a destination that takes public health and safety seriously. That’s why we’re so focused on the health response of Clark County as a means to economic recovery.”
The league is still establishing the conditions for a return and has not yet finalized a format. Multiple scenarios have been discussed, including the continuation of the regular season and a return only for the playoff teams.
Former Thomas & Mack Center director Daren Libonati said he believes Las Vegas would be an ideal location for the resumption of the NBA season, but noted that it has its challenges.
“Your biggest challenge, the biggest spoke in the wheel, would be transportation, getting your people from venue to venue and creating a schedule that is organized,” said Libonati, who has 33 years of experience working in local sports an entertainment.
“But … that’s what makes us probably the sexiest city in the world,” he added. “We have the ability to flip a switch and change our venues.”
Sports columnist Ron Kantowski and staff reporter Mick Akers contributed to this report.