Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 25: UNLV’s basketball teams open arena with a bang

Beyond the Sun

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

The opening night of the Thomas & Mack Center left two visiting basketball teams leaving with defeats, which would become a common theme and serves as a natural introduction to our countdown.

First, the UNLV women christened the new arena with a 113-62 victory over the semi-pro California Sun on Nov. 21, 1983. Rochelle Olivier led the way with 38 points before about 1,000 fans.

“It’s such an honor to be playing in this arena,” said UNLV co-coach Jim Bolla. “Most of the girls were a little in awe of everything.”

In the second game of the exhibition doubleheader, a crowd of 7,329 watched the UNLV men defeated the University of Victoria, 84-67.

Senior guard Eric Booker made 12 of his 20 shots for a team-high 25 points.

“I wish it would last for another 30 games,” coach Jerry Tarkanian said of Booker’s production.

That night, a new episode of Hawaii Five-O beamed into Las Vegas living rooms. “A Christmas Story” and “The Right Stuff” were showing in cinemas. A new Plymouth Reliant K-Car cost $7,235.

The arena drew favorable reviews, although a windstorm the previous day blew five doors off their hinges and made the game a cold, dusty experience.

Randy Lewis attended the game and said the landlords should turn the heat on so he could take his coat off. Dennis Finfrock, the first director of the Mack, apologized.

“I feel bad about that,” he said. “We’ve had to clean the floor a lot more than usual. We had the building pretty clean ... then the windstorm blew in.”

Jim Ordonski had purchased season tickets since 1965.

“We are delighted with it,” he said. “I just hope everybody gets behind this team and fills this building.”

Mike Anibal called it “absolutely gorgeous.” Bill Metcalf, who had relocated to Las Vegas from Minneapolis, said it was the best basketball arena he’s ever been in.

“There’s lots of room, the seats are great and it’s a beautiful place,” Metcalf said. “The Gophers are still playing in that old barn that was built in 1920.”

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