Southern Nevada has craved positive economic news for months, as the coronavirus upends business-as-usual on the Strip and forces conventions to cancel and tourists to scrap vacation plans. On Wednesday, a crack in the storm clouds emerged when a once-unlikely source announced plans to bring a slew of prominent events to town.
NCAA officials this week revealed that Las Vegas will host nine championship events in the coming years, including a men’s Division I basketball regional championship in 2023 and the Division I hockey championship — the Frozen Four — in 2026. The events will both be at T-Mobile Arena.
“I think that Las Vegas has been the established entertainment capital of the world, and we’re trying to establish ourselves as the sports capital of the world,” said George Kliavkoff, MGM Resorts president of entertainment and sports. “I think that’s a step in the right direction.”
Barely a decade ago, the NCAA would have never considered Las Vegas for such events thanks to its rabid opposition to legal sports wagering. But the erosion of that ridiculous barrier has been fast and swift. Southern Nevada is now home to three professional sports teams and hosts a number of college basketball conference tournaments, including the Pac-12 event. In addition, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 has paved the way for legalized sports betting in dozens of states and prompted the NCAA to wisely reconsider its silly decision to shun Las Vegas.
On top of the Frozen Four and March Madness, Las Vegas will host upcoming Division I regionals for men’s and women’s golf, Division II and Division III championships in men’s and women’s golf, Division III title matches for men’s and women’s soccer and the national collegiate women’s bowling championships.
The city is also in the running for the 2024 Super Bowl and will host the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl. The NFL draft will also come to the Strip in 2022 after being canceled this year due to the pandemic. Expect more high-profile college events, too, as the NCAA thaw becomes complete.
In recent months, Las Vegas has lost a number of major conventions and seen the National Finals Rodeo temporarily relocate to Texas because of virus-related attendance restrictions in Nevada. The economic ramifications will be felt for years, given the state’s heavy reliance on gaming and tourism taxes. But give credit to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and others working to ensure an eventual revival. The NCAA’s selection of Las Vegas for a number of future events represents a hopeful sign that a resilient Southern Nevada will pick itself up off the mat when this pandemic clears.