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New MGM arena will cater to all sports

Floyd Mayweather Jr. was recently asked if he had any interest in being the opening act when the new MGM arena opens in spring 2016?

After thinking about the question for a while, as he calculated the time frame, he finally responded.

“It would be an honor, absolutely,” he said. “But to tell you the truth, I haven’t thought that far in advance.”

His thinking might have changed Thursday, when he was part of the ceremonies behind New York-New York and the Monte Carlo for the official groundbreaking of the 20,000-seat, $375 million arena that MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group are building.

“I guess there’s a first time for everything,” Mayweather told the invited guests after arriving on a front-loader. “Hopefully, I can fill up the arena and have some fun.”

There’s speculation the arena will serve as the anchor tenant for a National Hockey League or National Basketball Association franchise. But no such announcement was forthcoming Thursday. MGM chairman and CEO Jim Murren said the arena is prepared to operate in 2016 with or without an NHL or NBA team.

“We’ll make money without a home team,” he said. “But we’ll be relying on Dan (Beckerman, AEG CEO) to work with the leagues on possibly bringing a team to the arena.”

Boxing? There’s no question it will have a home at the new arena. Same for mixed martial arts with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Both combat sports could vie for the first sporting event in the new arena.

“One thing that is missing from the Grand Garden right now is the hospitality aspect,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said. “For the sponsors, that’s an important component. In the new arena, we’ll be able to accommodate our sponsors better and provide their needs. And in doing so, we will be able to attract more sponsors.”

UFC president Dana White said he could see doing more shows in Las Vegas.

“It’s a game-changer,” he said of the new venue. “It’s important to put on a world-class show, and with the state of the art technology that will be available in this new arena, we can do that and make it a more exciting experience for the fans.”

And if the NHL or NBA wants to come to the new arena, it will be ready to accommodate it. Los Angeles Kings president Luc Robitaille said the NHL is monitoring the arena’s status and Las Vegas’ viability as a potential franchise.

“There are great hockey fans here (in Las Vegas),” said Robitaille, who is the team’s alternate governor and thus has access to the NHL’s top officials. “We’ve been seeing that for years when the Kings come here to play. But this new arena, I think, puts Vegas over the top. It is going to be a great place for hockey, and we wouldn’t object to the NHL putting a team here someday.

“Hockey is a game built on rivalries, and Vegas would be a great rival for the Kings, along with San Jose and Anaheim.”

College basketball also figures prominently in the new arena’s plans. The Pacific 12 Conference already has a relationship with the MGM by playing its conference tournament at the Grand Garden, and it probably has the inside track to securing the prime dates in March to play in the new arena.

Basketball Hall of Famer and UCLA legend Bill Walton, who participated in Thursday’s ceremonies, said: “I can’t believe (Pac-12 commissioner) Larry Scott hasn’t signed a lifetime contract with them.”

And with the Grand Garden to remain operational, it could open the door for the Mountain West to move its tournament from the Thomas &Mack Center to the new arena. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement the league hasn’t looked at leaving the T&M but would certainly explore the possibility of doing business with the new MGM arena.

“We are currently contracted with the Thomas &Mack Center and UNLV through the 2016 MW Basketball Championships,” Thompson said. “Beyond our contractual obligations, we most certainly want to honor our longstanding partnerships that have been so instrumental in the ongoing success of our basketball tournaments in Las Vegas.

“UNLV and the Thomas &Mack Center have been tremendously loyal and supportive, as have the LVCVA and LVE. Given our 15-plus-year relationship with MGM Resorts, it would behoove the Mountain West to investigate the possibilities involved with a new venue, but we would do so within the context of our existing partnerships.”

However, Murren said he does not want the new arena to have a predatory stance for booking events.

“We’re not going to cannibalize events that are already here,” he said.

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

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