Pac-12 Tournament Experiencing Better Atmosphere In Las Vegas' MGM Garden Arena
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott moved the conference's men's basketball championship to Las Vegas this year and "downsized to the 13,151-seat Garden Arena in hopes of injecting life into a tournament that had become stale" after holding it in L.A. for 11 seasons, according to Percy Allen of the SEATTLE TIMES. The title game last year "drew an announced crowd of 11,197, the lowest in the history of the tournament." But with the tournament "locked into a three-year deal with MGM and the Garden Arena, optimism is running high." UCLA coach Ben Howland said, "This ticket for the Pac-12 tournament will be one of the hardest tickets to get in three years. I guarantee it. That city and our tournament, it's a perfect marriage." This is the Garden Arena's "first major foray into basketball," and seemingly, things "went off without a hitch Wednesday." Early reports from the Pac-12 state that tickets for some sessions "were sold at 80 percent of capacity" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/14). In Denver, Tom Kensler notes ticket sales for this year's event "have been brisk" and Thursday's Arizona-Colorado game "was a sellout, at just over 13,000." That is "modest size for a power league, but the atmosphere and decibel figures are amped up with fewer empty seats" (DENVER POST, 3/15). In Portland, Ken Goe writes the atmosphere is "a big step up from the Pac-12's previous postseason home, the cavernous Staples Center, which never seemed to light up unless the Los Angeles schools were knocking heads." Taking the postseason tournament out of L.A. and "onto the strip is another aggressive move that most certainly will increase attendance and help the bottom line" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/15). CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd noted the NCAA is "playing four conference tournaments" -- West Coast, WAC, Mountain West and Pac-12 -- in Vegas this week. Howland said, "I think it needs to stay here for the next 100 years" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/14). In Arizona, Patrick Finley notes the arena has "one flaw -- the score of the game is shown only on the scoreboard directly above the players' heads" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 3/15).