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Las Vegas awarded Mountain West tourney through 2013

Several cities had made bids for tournament


Justin M. Bowen

Action during UNLV’s game against San Diego State in March during the Mountain West Conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Updated Tuesday, June 2, 2009 | 4:44 p.m.

The Rebel Room

More offseason UNLV hoops tid-bits ...

Ryan Greene and Rob Miech get you up to speed on all the recent developments in the world of UNLV hoops, including takes on Quintrell Thomas's commitment, the potential addition of Noel Johnson into the fold and the future of the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas.

The Mountain West Conference basketball tournament will remain in Las Vegas through 2013.

The conference’s Board of Directors announced today that it has agreed to implement an extension beyond 2010. Several cities, including Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, had made bids to host the tourney.

Detractors to the tournament remaining in Las Vegas included BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, and San Diego State coach Steve Fisher and New Mexico coach Steve Alford.

“Las Vegas has a long and storied history with the MWC,” said Pat Christensen, president of Las Vegas Events.

Las Vegas Events has worked closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the league to play the men’s and women’s games at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“We look forward to hosting all of the representatives from the MWC, including the enthusiastic fan bases that travel to Las Vegas each March,” Christensen said.

Las Vegas has played host to the championships since 2007. They were played in Denver from 2004 to 2006. From 2000 to 2003, they were at the Mack.

Las Vegas had a year left on the current agreement.

“I think it’s great,” said UNLV coach Lon Kruger. “It’s certainly good for the league. Other than some coaches feeling the competitive equity wasn’t there, understandably, in every other way it’s clearly the best site. There will be more exposure and more revenue for each school. And Las Vegas being a great city makes it clearly the best place.”

UNLV won the tournament championship, and the automatic NCAA tournament berth, in 2007 and 2008, but the Rebels lost in a quarterfinal to San Diego State in March. Utah defeated the Aztecs in the finale and went to the NCAAs.

Rebels athletic director Mike Hamrick sounded just as pleased at the announcement.

“The presidents did their due diligence and did the right thing,” Hamrick said. “This is the right place for the tournament. It’s our premier event and conference championship, and it needs to be in a premier city and facility.

“The Thomas & Mack Center is that and Las Vegas is that. It’s proven that it’s successful here. We’re just very pleased for the entire conference that the tournament is staying in Las Vegas.”

The tournament in March brought in almost $6.4 million to Las Vegas, in gaming and non-gaming revenue by visitors, according to figures obtained by the Sun in an exclusive economic-impact report prepared for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Total tickets collected, in both the men’s and women’s tournaments, dropped from the previous two years. In 2007, 67,175 went to the games. In 2008, that dipped to 60,775, and it slipped to 60,725 in March. However, room nights occupied went from 7,825 in 2007, to 6,525 in 2008 to 8,075 in 2009.

In a questionnaire, attendees who were asked if they would attend next year’s event responded, in 2007, that they were 85 percent likely to go to the games in 2008. In 2008, that dropped to 76 percent. In March, 66 percent of the attendees said they’d come back in 2010.

Vince Alberta, an LVCVA vice president in charge of public affairs, said president and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter was instrumental in working with Las Vegas Events to secure the event’s extension.

All were very aware, Alberta said, that Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City and San Diego were competing to host the tournament from 2011 to 2013.

“Elements might have changed slightly,” Alberta said of the package offered to the MWC hierarchy. “One of the main messages we tried to reinforce is that Las Vegas is designed to host special events. It’s something we do very well and it really provides a great fan experience for the Mountain West.

Las Vegas was built, Alberta said, on special events.

“We have the infrastructure in world-class resorts and airport, and proximity to the arena … all those things add up to a tremendous fan experience and energize an event that brings basketball to the national stage.”

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