LAS VEGAS - The Western Athletic Conference today announced that the 2011 and 2012 WAC Basketball Tournaments will be held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
"We are extremely excited about bringing the WAC's most prestigious event back to the city of Las Vegas and the Orleans Arena," said WAC Commissioner Karl Benson. "Over the last couple of years, it has become more critical and important to find a neutral site to satisfy the concerns of our men's and women's coaches. WAC fans have shown that they enjoy traveling to Las Vegas and I am certain the Orleans Arena will create a great tournament atmosphere."
The 2011 WAC Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament will be held March 9-12 and will include the top eight teams in the regular-season standings.
The move to a neutral site was approved by the WAC Board of Directors which is currently chaired by the President of the University of Nevada, Milton Glick. "We were delighted to have been selected to host the 2009 and 2010 tournaments in Reno in partnership with the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority," said Glick. "However, more tournaments are moving to neutral locations. The decision to move the 2011 WAC Basketball Tournament to Las Vegas is positive for the fans, the conference and the tournament. All of the WAC university presidents and athletic directors toured the Orleans Arena and believe it will be an excellent facility which will attract our fan base to attend the tournament.""
"We are excited to build on our relationship with the WAC by hosting their championship basketball tournaments," said Darren Davis, Orleans Arena Executive Director. "As we saw last year, these tournaments are significant tourism draws for our community, and we are excited to welcome another major conference in Las Vegas."
In April of this year, the conference announced that the 2009 WAC Volleyball Tournament will be held at the Orleans Arena. The venue is home to the Las Vegas Invitational and Las Vegas Classic annual collegiate basketball tournaments, and has hosted several other sporting events including AVP Volleyball, Las Vegas Wranglers hockey, Las Vegas Gladiators arena football, the West Coast Conference's basketball tournaments and several boxing and mixed martial arts events.
"When we went to Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to look at the facilities," New Mexico State men’s head coach Marvin Menzies said. “Fans are going to be pleasantly surprised with the true basketball environment that is presented there. I think it will be a great event and I know the West Coast Conference had a phenomenal tournament. I look forward to it, and moving it out of anyone's home turf is good for the conference in general.”
This marks the second time that the WAC Basketball Tournament will be played in Las Vegas. From 1997-99, the tournament was played at the Thomas & Mack Center when UNLV was a member of the WAC.
"I believe for the WAC to continue growing and take its place among the top leagues in the country, we do need to play the tournament on a neutral court," said New Mexico State women's head coach Darin Spence. "Las Vegas should attract more fans from all schools and be a positive experience for all of us."
The 2010 tournament will be played in Reno, Nevada at the University's Lawlor Events Center. This past year, Nevada also hosted the tournament which was won by Utah State on the men's side and Fresno State on the women's.
What other WAC coaches are saying:
Stew Morrill-Utah State men
"WAC head basketball coaches have been pushing for a neutral site for a number of years. Las Vegas will be an exciting location, The Orleans is a great venue, and most importantly no team will have home court advantage."
Steve Cleveland-Fresno State men
"The Orleans is a great facility and the opportunity to compete at a neutral site in Las Vegas will generate excitement among the student athletes and the fans."
Kerry Rupp-Louisiana Tech men
"I'm very pleased that the WAC tournament will be moved to a neutral site in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a great city and the Orleans Arena is a great venue which will provide for a spectacular weekend of championship basketball to showcase this event.'
Greg Graham-Boise State men
"I think moving the WAC tournament to Vegas is a great opportunity for not only us, but the rest of the teams in the conference. We are not only excited about the opportunity to be playing on a neutral court in an exciting environment, but think Vegas will be a great place for the fans to get excited about going. It's a good move and will make for a great conference tournament."
Bob Nash-Hawai'i men
"Moving the tournament to Las Vegas makes great sense competitively, geographically and financially. It's certainly a natural fit for Hawai'i and I know for a fact that our fans will enjoy having the tournament there. Most importantly, it's a neutral site, which provides a level playing field and should make for some great basketball."
George Nessman-San Jose State men
"The Orleans is a fabulous venue. Playing in Las Vegas provides a neutral court setting for all WAC teams and a fun destination for many fans. The WAC has made an outstanding move that will generate more interest in what is already a premier athletic event."
David Carter-Nevada men
"I am very excited about the WAC Tournament moving to a neutral site. It will be very good for our conference and our teams. Our fans have supported the tournament so well on campus, and I am sure they will turn out in force to enjoy everything that the Orleans and a neutral site like Las Vegas has to offer."
Jon Newlee-Idaho women
"I am really looking forward to the neutral site move. I believe it gives everyone a fair and equal chance to compete and advance to the NCAA Tournament. It brings the WAC in line with the rest of the major conferences in the country and will really give us that 'March Madness' feel. Great move!"
Adrian Wiggins-Fresno State women
"We are excited that the WAC Tournament is moving to the Orleans Arena. It is a great venue that will provide an excellent college basketball atmosphere. This will be a great opportunity for our conference to showcase the great basketball talent we have in the WAC."
Pam DeCosta-San Jose State women
"This is a great move for our conference. Playing at a neutral site gives any team a chance to win the tournament. In the two years I have been in the conference, the home crowd has given the home team an advantage and made them the favorite to win. With this change, every team at the tournament now has a chance to win and extend their season."
Jane Albright-Nevada women
"I was very impressed with the Orleans Arena when we toured it in the spring. The people there have made a huge commitment to the WAC and I believe this move is very positive for our conference."
Raegan Pebley-Utah State women
"Moving the WAC tourney to the Orleans in Las Vegas is a great opportunity to enhance WAC student-athletes' and fans' experiences. What a fun week that will be. Great basketball and great fans combined with a great facility and city. We appreciate Karl Benson and his staff as well as all of the university presidents and administrators support in moving the WAC basketball tournament to a neutral site. While Reno and Las Cruces have been excellent hosts, this move is something that both coaches and student-athletes felt important in creating a quality event for all parties involved."
Teresa Weatherspoon-Louisiana Tech women
"I think it's a great idea to have the tournament at a neutral site. It puts all nine teams on an even playing field. Everyone has to travel and everyone is taken out of their comfort zone. There will be no home court advantage for anyone. This is a great opportunity to showcase our league on a neutral court."
About The WAC
The Western Athletic Conference was formed in 1962 and is comprised of nine member institutions: Boise State, Fresno State, Hawai'i, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State. The WAC crowns team and individual champions in 19 sports - eight men's and 11 women's. The WAC office is located in Denver, Colo. For more information on the conference, visit www.wacsports.com.
About The Orleans
Located at 4500 W. Tropicana Ave., The Orleans includes more than a dozen restaurants, an 18-screen movie theater, 70-lane bowling center, 850-seat showroom and the 9,500-seat Orleans Arena. More information on The Orleans Hotel and Casino can be found at www.orleanscasino.com.