Pac-12 officially moves men's basketball tourney to Las Vegas

Pac-12 officially moves men's basketball tourney to Las Vegas
Flanked by Las Vegas Convention Center and Visitors Authority president and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, far left, Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, left, and MGM COO and president Scott Sibella, right, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott speaks about bringing the Pac-12 basketball tournament to Las Vegas, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Las Vegas. Las Vegas will begin hosting the tournament in 2013 (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Pac-12 men's basketball tournament is moving to Sin City for the next three years.

Commissioner Larry Scott announced the deal Tuesday at the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas, standing poolside near a site known for boxing, not basketball.

Scott said the move, combined with moving the women's tournament to Seattle, will generate buzz and create atmosphere for the conference's fans.

The Pac-12 tournament running March 13-16, 2013, will be the fourth conference tournament in Las Vegas, along with the Mountain West, Western Athletic Conference and West Coast Conference.

"For hardcore basketball fans, this is going to be like Disneyland," Scott said.

Rossi Ralenkotter of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said the tournament will establish Las Vegas as the town where March Madness begins, with the tournaments generating $27 million in spending in the city — excluding gambling.

"It's a win-win for all of us," Ralenkotter said.

Roughly one-third of Las Vegas' 39 million tourists last year came from California. Four of the Pac-12's schools are in the Golden State.

All the tournament's games will be televised under a 12-year deal with ESPN, Fox and the newly created Pac-12 Network. Scott said ESPN would air three tournament games, including the championship, next year.

Sin City won out over other places including Salt Lake City, Seattle and Los Angeles in bidding to host the tournament, Scott said.

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins praised Scott for the move.

"He's looking to continue to try to forge ahead with making this conference the type of conference that he envisions and that we envision — and that's one of the best conferences in the country," Dawkins said.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Las Vegas will be more convenient for the Pac-12's teams.

"It's not spread out at all, just about everything is right there at everyone's fingertips," Scott said. "I can see this taking us to the next level as a conference with national exposure."

The tournament will be the first time the MGM Grand Garden Arena has hosted basketball. It's world-famous for hosting top prizefights, and regularly hosts exhibition NHL hockey, concerts, awards shows and other corporate events. Last month, it hosted a swanky, star-studded bash to celebrate Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday.

Scott Sibella, the MGM Grand's president, said the arena would hold 14,000 to 15,000 fans for basketball.

"It's a 3-year deal but we're going to prove to them that they're going to be here a lot longer than three years," Sibella said.

The new agreement, which runs through 2015, brings the Pac-12 Tournament to one of the most popular and exciting travel destinations in the world, one that averages approximately 40 million visitors annually and showcases some of the most iconic entertainment events in the country. All tournament games will be televised nationally on ESPN, FOX and the Pac-12 Networks. The 2013 tournament will be played March 13-16.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to create a new, dynamic atmosphere for our schools, our student-athletes and our fans,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “Las Vegas is one of the most exciting destinations in the country and with our new partnership with Las Vegas Events, the MGM Grand Garden Arena and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority we expect the stature and energy of the Pac-12 Tournament to continue to flourish.”

For the last 11 years, the Pac-12 Tournament has had an agreement to play at the Staples Center in Los Angeles which expired at the end of this year's tournament. An extensive bidding process with a variety of cities over the last 10 months ultimately led the Pac-12 CEO Group to select Las Vegas as the new home for the Pac-12 Tournament.

“We truly appreciate the partnership that we have formed with the Pac-12 Conference to host their Men’s Basketball Championships,” President of Las Vegas Events Pat Christenson said. “We look forward to again demonstrating the power of the Las Vegas brand when matched with an elite property like the Pac-12 Conference.”

Since 1991, Las Vegas Events has produced, presented or supported more than 600 events, including the Las Vegas Bowl, NASCAR Sprint Cup and Craftsman Truck Series, Aviation Nation, NHRA Drag Racing, Rolex FEI World Cup Finals, U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling and Judo and their signature New Year’s Eve production, America’s Party.

Under the Pac-12‘s new 12-year media rights agreement, ESPN and FOX will rotate each year as the licensed broadcast partner of the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game. They will each carry a quarterfinal game, semifinal and the championship game during those years. ESPN will have the rights in 2013. Every other game of the tournament will be televised nationally by the Pac-12 Networks, which will launch in August 2012.

“Hosting the 2013 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament is a tremendous opportunity for MGM Grand and the city of Las Vegas,” President and COO of MGM Grand Scott Sibella said. “Partnering with the Pac-12 continues our tradition of hosting the biggest names and events in Sports and Entertainment while offering our guests the chance to experience the best dining, entertainment and nightlife worldwide.”

The MGM Grand Garden Arena has been home to some of the biggest sporting events in history, including epic boxing championships like Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson and Oscar de la Hoya-Floyd Mayweather.

“Las Vegas has evolved to host people and special events,” President and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Rossi Ralenkotter said. “The partnership between the Pac-12 and Las Vegas will translate into a great experience for the schools, teams and fans.”

About the Pac-12 Conference

The Conference has a tradition as the “Conference of Champions,” earning more than 175 NCAA team titles over the past 20 years, and has led the nation in NCAA Championships in 45 of the last 51 years. The Conference comprises 12 leading U.S. universities: The University of Arizona, Arizona State University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Washington, Washington State University, the University of Utah, and the University of Colorado. Conference offices are located 25 miles east of San Francisco in Walnut Creek, CA. For more information on the Conference’s programs, member institutions, and Commissioner Larry Scott, go to www.pac-12.org.

About Las Vegas Events

Las Vegas Events is a private, not-for-profit organization that serves as the exclusive major special events agency for the city. Founded in 1983, LVE is funded by hotel room tax. Through its Signature Event initiative, LVE has created a model to integrate all elements of special events and formally improve communication between event producers and Las Vegas’ hotel properties and sponsors. Since 1991, Las Vegas Events has produced, presented or supported more than 600 events.
www.lasvegasevents.com

About the MGM Grand Garden Arena

The MGM Grand Garden Arena is home to concerts, championship boxing and premier sporting and special events. The Arena offers comfortable seating for as many as 16,800 with excellent sightlines and state-of-the-art acoustics, lighting and sound. Prominent events to date have included world championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson as well as Oscar de la Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez; and concerts by The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler, George Strait, Janet Jackson, Phil Collins, Billy Joel, U2, Lady Gaga, Sting, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Buffett and the Barbra Streisand Millennium Concert. The MGM Grand Garden Arena also is home to the annual Academy of Country Music Awards and the Frozen Fury NHL pre-season game which features the Los Angeles Kings vs. Colorado Avalanche.

About the LVCVA

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is charged with marketing Southern Nevada as a tourism and convention destination worldwide, and also with operating the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Center. With approximately 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas alone and more than 10 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space citywide, the LVCVA mission centers on attracting ever-increasing numbers of leisure and business visitors to the area.
www.lvcva.com or www.VisitLasVegas.com