The month of March brings back fond memories for me. Sitting with my college roommates, watching hours of basketball and cheering on our teams always seemed like a good idea – that is until we realized we had exams the next day.
Back then March was a national holiday for college basketball fans, and it is considered to be this even more so today. And Las Vegas, as the only city to host four NCAA basketball conference championship tournaments, is the ultimate destination for people who want to immerse themselves in a true b-ball experience.
Collegiate basketball has grown from a niche market to a mainstream attraction for the Las Vegas hospitality industry over the past 10 years. The tournaments held here – including the West Coast Conference, Western Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, and the Pac-12 Conference – have seen a continuous increase in attendance, especially from out-of-state visitors. This year, the Pac-12 tournament is at the Grand Garden Arena, where there are 13,000 seats for basketball. It’s sold out for the first time in league history.
The popularity of the “Big Dance” is incredible. During some of the early collegiate games leading up to the big tournament, our race and sports books are jammed to the rafters. They host about four times the volume of guests that show up for the average NFL Sunday game. The energy is super exciting and one of the best places to catch a game. Everyone from alumni, parents to college students themselves will be in town.
Years ago, fans picked Las Vegas as their destination of choice because we can provide them with an immersive experience. Not only can they attend the local tournaments, they can also watch every game played during the month on high-definition televisions, everywhere they go. They have an array of dining experiences at their fingertips and entertainment options unrivaled by other cities. It’s a sports fan’s dream. Up and down the Strip, beer and hot dogs are sold in record volumes, and craps and blackjack action spikes.
As a bonus, St. Paddy’s Day happens to fall on a Thursday this year, which will draw its share of suddenly-Irish revelers to Vegas, at the same time the 64 remaining collegiate teams will launch the first round of the tournament. Hotel rooms on the Strip are expected to sell out. I personally can’t wait to see all of the great basketball talent we have in our colleges as they play to win. It’s a super exciting month for us here in Vegas and at MGM Resorts, and I’m thrilled we can be home to some of the best action in college basketball and help put more “wow” in our guests’ lives.