Commissioner Larry Scott: Pac-12 reaches one-year extension to keep Men's Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand
LAS VEGAS – Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the media on Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, about an hour before Arizona and UCLA faced off in the first Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament semifinal.
For the third straight year, the conference's men's hoops tourney has been a huge hit with fans in Las Vegas, as Scott announced each session resulted in a sellout. The MGM Grand Arena provides fans with an intimate and unique experience to enjoy some early March Madness, and Scott said the Pac-12 has reached a one-year agreement to return to the venue for the 2016 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament.
"One of the great things about this event has been not just the experience within the Grand Garden Arena itself, and the energy and the electricity and the atmosphere overall that's created for the fans and student-athletes in the arena, and how it translates on television – all that's been wonderful," Scott said. "But a lot of the feedback I've received from fans also has to do with just the overall experience of being here and walking around the hotel and the buzz and how it's really permeated beyond the actual court and the seats in the arena itself."
As Scott alluded to, the entire hotel and casino complex has been abuzz all week, filled with fans decked out in their Pac-12 gear. But bigger things could be on the horizon for the Men's Basketball Tournament in the future.
Scott also told reporters that the Pac-12 will explore moving the tourney to a new arena under construction on the Las Vegas strip. The arena will be owned and operated by MGM and the Anschutz Entertainment Group, and is expected to be finished by the summer of 2016 near the New York-New York Hotel & Casino on the west side of Las Vegas Blvd. It is expected to hold 18,850 seats for basketball games, which is nearly 6,000 more than the current setup at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The earliest the conference could move the Men's Basketball Tournament to the MGM-AEG Arena would be 2017, but Scott said there are a lot of factors to consider before the Pac-12 makes that decision.
"Between now and next year's tournament we plan to spend a lot of time going over the plans for the event and trying to understand the interralation between the hotels and the new facility," Scott said. "There's a lot to understand in terms of how the new arena will work and the dynamics with the hotel and overall fan experience."
Either way, it sounds like the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament has found a home in Las Vegas.
"We knew we had a tremendous opportunity when we moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, based on conversations with our fans that this event could be a real fan favorite that we would have fans in support of our schools from around the conference footprint, but also nationally come to see this event and help us elevate it," Scott said. "I think it's fair to say that the event has exceeded any of our expectations."