Safe bet: Las Vegas set to bid to host NCAA events

NEW YORK (AP) — Las Vegas is going to take a chance on hosting major college sporting events.

The city is set to bid on nearly a half dozen different NCAA championship events, including women’s basketball.

The NCAA will start accepting bids Monday on nearly two dozen sports championships over all three divisions. This is the first year that Las Vegas is eligible to bid after the governing body for college sports indefinitely suspended a ban last year that prevented events from being hosted in states that accept wagers on single games.

George Kliavkoff, who is MGM’s President of Entertainment and Sports, told The Associated Press last week that his group — in conjunction with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority — plan on bidding to host women’s basketball as well as at least five other sports. Those could include the Frozen Four, wrestling and women’s volleyball championships.

We’re looking for scaled opportunities. Sports that attract lots of fans and some places we can reconfigure the way the events are held to attract more fans,” he said.

Kliavkoff thinks Las Vegas is positioned well for women’s basketball and its potential new regional format. The NCAA women’s basketball committee suggested earlier this month changing the format for the regionals starting in 2023 by having two cities host eight teams each in the Sweet 16 instead of having four sites.

“Nevada is such a great place and Las Vegas is such an excellent place to hold a championship or regional,” Kliavkoff said. “We’re uniquely positioned since we have T-Mobile Arena, MGM Garden Arena and Mandalay Bays. We have three event centers. We have knowledge how to do this. There are dozens of hotels in town that have price points for every fan. We’re a city that’s easy to get to with direct non-stop flights from almost everywhere in the country.”

Moving to a two-site format, the committee noted, would elevate and enhance the student-athlete experience, enhance broadcast coverage, create opportunity for growth of the sport and championship, build the brand of women’s basketball and expand programming targeting strategic plan initiatives that were announced in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Strategic Plan.

“We’ll see how it falls out as bids come in,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Lynn Holzman said. “It’s new ground we’re treading. Moving from four to two sites for regionals.”

While Holzman wouldn’t say whether Las Vegas has a leg-up on other cities, she is very familiar with basketball tournaments being played there. She was commissioner of the West Coast Conference, which has played its tournament in Las Vegas for the last decade.

Las Vegas would have no problems hosting eight teams and their fans in the new format. It would make sense for the NCAA to look at having one site on the West Coast and one on the East Coast for the new format to help with television windows for their partner ESPN. MGM also operates the arena in Springfield, Massachusetts, so the company could bid for an East Coast site, as well.