Las Vegas to host NCAA Tournament men’s regional for first time


Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Duke fans cheer during their NCAA basketball game against UNLV Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Duke won 94-45.

Published Wed, Oct 14, 2020 (11:32 a.m.)

Updated Wed, Oct 14, 2020 (3:18 p.m.)

INDIANAPOLIS — Las Vegas will host an NCAA Tournament men's basketball regional for the first time after the NCAA changed a policy that prevented states with sports wagering from hosting championships.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that a 2023 NCAA Tournament men's regional will be held in Las Vegas, the first time Nevada will host an NCAA championship since a women's basketball regional was held at the Thomas & Mack Center in 1991.

The men's regional in Las Vegas was among 450 host sites announced through 2026 for a variety of sports. Nevada will host 11 events, including the 2026 men's Frozen Four, after the NCAA changed its stance on cities with sports betting last year.

Las Vegas and UNLV will host the following championships:

• 2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Regional at T-Mobile Arena.

• 2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Regional at Bear’s Best Las Vegas.

• 2023 National Collegiate Women’s Bowling Championship at the South Point

• 2024 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Regional at Spanish Trail Country Club.

• 2024 NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championships at Boulder Creek Golf Club and the Legacy Golf Club.

• 2024 NCAA Division III Men’s & Women’s Soccer Championships at Peter Johann Memorial Field.

• 2025 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Championships at Boulder Creek Golf Club.

• 2026 NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championships at Boulder Creek Golf Club.

“We are thrilled to welcome upcoming NCAA championships to Las Vegas, and we cannot wait to showcase our great community to participating student-athletes, coaches, their fans and the nation,” UNLV Director of Athletics Desiree Reed-Francois said in a statement.

“We also look forward to our own UNLV student-athletes competing for national titles in our hometown," she said.

Reed-Francois also recognized UNLV staff members involved in the bid process to get the events. Bidding for 86 of 90 NCAA championships began in August 2019, with more than 3,000 applications submitted.

Committees selected host sites they thought would provide “the ultimate experience” for student-athletes, UNLV said in a news release.

Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said the selection of Las Vegas to host the championships “solidifies our evolution into the sports capital of the world.”

“We believe sports will be an important part of the destination’s economic recovery and continuing growth, and we can’t wait to welcome these athletes and fans for an experience they’ll only find in Las Vegas,” he said.

George Kliavkoff, president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts International, co-owner of T-Mobile Arena, said today’s news is the result of “chipping away for many years at the concept of Las Vegas not being a viable place for college sports.”

“We have professional sports teams here now, and we’ve had big boxing events and other large-scale events. This is just another step in that direction,” he said.

Michael Green, an associate history professor at UNLV, said the continued acceptance of legalized sports betting and gambling nationwide has helped attitudes evolve.

“They may have realized that regulated sports betting and gambling is a lot better than unregulated sports betting and gambling,” he said.

The expansion of professional sports to Las Vegas — home to the Golden Knights, Raiders and Aces — has proven sports and gaming can coexist, he said.

Bo Bernhard, executive director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, said any stigma about Las Vegas and sports has essentially been erased.

This latest move by the NCAA “reminds the world that this is the place to convene and do all of the recreational things you can imagine, including going to these big-ticket sporting events,” he said.

The NCAA also announced Dayton, Ohio, will continue to host the NCAA First Four through at least 2026. It has served as the site for the start of the NCAA Tournament since 2001.

The NCAA had previously announced future Final Four sites: Indianapolis in 2021; New Orleans, 2022; Houston, 2023; Phoenix 2024; San Antonio, 2025; and Indianapolis again in 2026.

The 2020 Final Four in Atlanta was wiped out by the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Las Vegas Sun staff and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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