Tuesday, March 13, 2012 | 12:45 p.m.
Come next March, four college basketball conference tournaments will be held in Las Vegas.
The Pac-12 Conference announced Tuesday that it would be moving its tournament from the Staples Center in Los Angeles to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, hoping the venue change will help boost the event’s poor attendance figures.
The tournament had been at the Staples Center since 2002, but the league turned down a reported offer to stay in Los Angeles for a three-year contract in Las Vegas through the 2015 tournament. The Pac-12 women’s tournament is also leaving Los Angeles for a three-year deal in Seattle at the Key Arena.
The Pac-12 tournament will be held March 13-16 in Las Vegas, which is the same time frame as the Mountain West Conference tourney at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Western Athletic Conference event at the Orleans Arena. In the first week of March, the West Coast Conference also hosts its tournament at the Orleans Arena.
The Pac-12 hosted a media event Tuesday at the MGM’s Wet Republic pool — complete with a portable basketball hoop on the pool deck and several of the league’s official basketballs floating in the pool.
League officials hope the move to Las Vegas will create some excitement as the conference heads in a new direction. Last year, it expanded to 12 members by adding Colorado and Utah, and they also debuted a football championship game in 2011. Additionally, the Pac-12 Network is set to launch in August, and the league also has a new television deal with ESPN to broadcast certain games.
“We feel strongly that this increase in national (television) exposure combined with this exciting new destination for our tournament will be a great benefit to pac-12 men’s basketball and create an exciting platform for our student-athletes,” said Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner.
Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, estimates 50,000 basketball fans will be in Southern Nevada next March for the four tournaments. They will bring in $27 million of non-gaming revenue, he said.
“It’s a win-win for all of us,” Ralenkotter said.
The MGM Grand Garden, which seats 16,800, hosts mostly boxing and mixed martial arts fights and concerts. This will be their first basketball experience.
“We are going to make it exciting,” said Scott Sibella, president and COO of MGM Grand. “It is a three-year deal, but we are going to prove to them that they will be here for a lot longer than three years.”