Looks like the Pac-12 Tournament will stay in Las Vegas for a while.
The men’s basketball tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena finished up Saturday night, with Oregon taking the title.
The inaugural tournament was well received by fans, media, players and coaches.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said the arena was sold out in several of the tournament sessions, an announcement he didn’t expect to make in the first campaign in Las Vegas.
“This is the kind of atmosphere that we envisioned and hoped for when we thought about moving the tournament from Los Angeles,” he said.
The Pac-12 Tournament was the first basketball event to be held in the MGM Grand, opening with the ASU vs. Stanford match.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena replaced the STAPLES Center, which hosted the tournament in Los Angeles from 2002-12.
The MGM usually hosts championship boxing, UFC fights, concerts and the Billboard Music Awards. The smaller arena created a more intimate environment similar to many college venues, which is something the 19,079-seat STAPLES Center does not offer.
Las Vegas’s popular tourist attractions also give fans an incentive to stay for the entire tournament, even if their teams were eliminated early.
“I commend the league for taking a chance and doing something different,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “The crowds weren’t good in L.A. It was really expensive for our fans to come. If your team did lose, you’re stuck with airline tickets. What do you do? This is a little more fan friendly.”
Las Vegas is a central location for the Pac-12, which allows more fans to attend, including the student sections.
Pac-12 chief marketing officer Danette Leighton said the conference received a large turnout from all conference members universities, notably UA, UCLA, Utah and Colorado.
Redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson said Las Vegas’s relative proximity to Tempe gave ASU a virtual home court advantage in its 89-88 overtime win over Stanford.
“So we’d like to give them a show and support them as well as they support us,” he said.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said he’s a big supporter of the new venue.
“For a lot of fans, it’s a win-win,” he said.
The Pac-12 is one of four conferences that hold their men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas. The Mountain West hosts its tournament at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center, while the Orleans Arena is home to the WAC and the WCC conference brackets.
The Pac-12 has two more years on its contract with MGM.
Scott noted MGM and the arena developer AEG are in talks of building a 20,000-seat basketball arena in Las Vegas, and that could motivate the Pac-12 to continue hosting the tournament beyond the conference’s three-year deal.
“I think it’s fair to say year one has exceeded our expectations in many respects,” he said. “We’ve also got a list of things we’ll work hard to improve on. But a very good year, and I think there is a lot of potential for this to go beyond three years.”
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