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WCC exploring options for tournament sites in Las Vegas

The eight-year marriage between the West Coast Conference and Orleans Arena has been mostly blissful.

But will it last?

The WCC’s contract with The Orleans ends Tuesday after the men’s and women’s basketball championship games. And that means second-year commissioner Lynn Holzman will be seeking the best deal for her 10 schools.

“Las Vegas and the Orleans have been tremendous partners,” Holzman said. “We’ve been here since 2009, and the atmosphere has been amazing.

“That said, we have some options in Las Vegas that we are looking at. Ultimately, it’s about making the right decision for our conference members, our student-athletes and our fans.”

The WCC is looking at the MGM Grand Garden and possibly T-Mobile Arena as potential sites for its tournaments. Whatever the Pacific 12 Conference ultimately does wouldn’t impact the WCC, because the WCC starts its tournament the previous week and wraps up on Tuesdays. The Pac-12 tournament begins on Wednesdays.

And as long as ESPN doesn’t demand the WCC move its dates, things will remain status quo. The WCC enjoys the spotlight on ESPN’s networks for most of its tournament, and the championship game is televised in prime time on ESPN. Moving the tournament to the following week would not afford the league the same kind of exposure.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this,” Holzman said. “We enjoy our current arrangement with our broadcast partners, and it’s obviously a factor in any decision we ultimately make.”

Can the WCC get what it considers a good deal to remain at The Orleans? Or does it consider moving its event to the Strip and play at one of the MGM’s facilities?

Obviously, T-Mobile and its 19,000-seat capacity for basketball is way too big for the WCC. But if the balcony was curtained off and seating reduced to about 10,000, that might be enticing to the league. The Grand Garden seats 13,000, but it can be shrunk to 9,000 or less. The Orleans seats about 8,000 for basketball.

Other things to consider are is travel and parking. The Orleans doesn’t charge to park, and the MGM is preparing to charge for parking at its properties, including the MGM Grand. It might be a turnoff for fans.

And if the WCC moves, or even if it stays, can it hold the line on ticket prices and get good hotel rates for its fans to purchase a package of tickets and rooms?

“All options are on the table,” Holzman said. “We’ve been talking to The Orleans. They are in the mix. We’re looking at the MGM. It’s part of the overall evaluation.”

The WCC’s move to Las Vegas has been profitable. Holzman’s job is to see that remains the case.

“We will give the presidents our recommendation, and they will decide how to proceed,” Holzman said. “I would hope that in the next couple of months we will come to a decision.”

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

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