With the Pac-12 making its long awaited move from Los Angeles to the Strip, we figured it'd be best to discuss this issue with the basketball minds of the Pac-12 writers of SB Nation in our inaugural Pac-12 roundtable.
Larry Scott talks about the move here.
Putting it right in the Strip does make it as easy as possible for fans to enjoy the game. It would be a fun first-year experiment for the conference to try out. Fans will come out, they'll be happy to spend a week in Vegas, and if their team loses, they'll be happier to stick around and soak up the sights, sounds, and salary dumps on the slots. It'll be a strong packed audience, and it'll be something TV will love to soak up. Who can turn down Vegas in the spring?
For the rest of you, here's two discussion questions to lead off:
How satisfied are you with the Vegas move?
If you had your choice of where a Pac-12 tournament would be held (LA, Vegas, alternate, rotating model), where would it be and why?
The rotating model has been suggested before, and it definitely has its merits. However, there are issues with rotating the thing every year.
Attendance would suffer from similar instability issues. How are alternative sites like Phoenix, Portland, and Salt Lake City any different from Los Angeles? In many ways they're worse, particularly if the teams hosting are down (notice how poor the attendance was this year in Staples with USC and UCLA out early). Seattle, San Francisco and Denver are probably suitable in terms of ideal travel spots and diverse Pac-12 representation in each city, but they would also struggle to sell out. The NBA rules the West Coast major cities even when the conference experiences its upswings.
I have the feeling the Pac-12 wants a stable site, and they want a site similar to the Big East tournament which would be centralized and guarantee attendance. Vegas makes sense for the near future, although I do believe the conference would soon like to put it smack dab in San Francisco (right next to the new network headquarters) if the Warriors ever decide to build a new arena downtown and make the move away from Oakland.
Jack Follman: Pac-12 basketball needs a serious shot in the arm in a lot of ways and while I feel the move isn't a game changer, it is the right move and a step in the direction of making the conference tournament respectable. The Staples Center was an empty tomb and Los Angeles is just too hard of a city to attract neutral spectators and expensive for traveling fans. Las Vegas is affordable, centrally located, fun and a great spring break destination for students. The tournament will be the biggest sporting event in the city that week each year as opposed to competing with professional sports and big time entertainment like it does in LA.
I don't think a rotating venue would work because the major West Coast cities are just too sports apathetic and clearly LA didn't work. I don't think having the regular season champion would work logistically either though with some of the markets like Pullman and Corvalis just being too small. Most of all I think Las Vegas should inject something that has been missing from the tournament the last few years - fun.
Joey Kaufman: My take: I'm not entirely convinced that "L.A. didn't work." After nine years, and with a lousy product the last three, the novelty has worn off, no doubt. The problem, at least in my opinion, stems from that average on-the-court product. The top teams are competing for at-large bids, not No. 1 seeds. Times for tip-off are at 12 p.m. on a Wednesday in downtown L.A. That's not going to work no matter how you construct it.
But at the very least, moving to Las Vegas gives the tournament a sort of jolt that had clearly been lacking in recent years. It'll likely be the region's most attractive sporting event and that should at least attract some local interest -- there was none in Southern California. You're not going to have an exciting Pac-12 postseason tourney when then the conference has seasons like it just had, let's face it. Casual fans don't want to watch bubble teams battle it out on the hardwood. In fact, I'm not really sure I do, either.
It's tough to gauge whether Vegas will work out in the long run, say five or six years down the line. But it's a step in the right direction. A change had to be made, and fortunately, Nevada is centrally located and is an exciting destination that could generate some interest. At least they're trying.
David Piper, Addicted To Quack: Not only did LA not work, it was a complete disaster, so I'm glad we're moving away from that.
When news of the idea first leaked in the fall, I was really skeptical. I had wanted the rotating model, figuring there was an NBA arena in each market and that this could generate sufficient buzz once every five years in each place. But I've really come around. The key is to get fans of all the teams there and make it an event. This is why the Big Ten tournament thrives in Chicago or Indianapolis, because they're centrally located and a reasonable drive for all in Big Ten country. Would it have the same success in Minneapolis or Pittsburgh, which are located on the outliers? The ACC Tournament has been successful in Greensboro and Charlotte, not so much in a place like Tampa which is on the very fringe of ACC Country.
awbutler, Pachoops: I've never been a huge proponent - from a competitive fairness standpoint - of the conference tournament. I think it devalues the regular season where teams truly cut their teeth. That said, the entertainment value can be terrific. But, as Joey point out, the talent of late hasn't provided for the most entertaining of competition. So if we can't bring the people to the lackluster entertaininment, why not bring the people to the entertainment? Vegas (Clark Griswold eyes)! The conference needs a shakeup and a tournament venue change could be exactly what it needs. Hell, it's already got us talking about it a year out.
As for what I'd like to see? I have no problem with the rotating model. It doesn't necessarily have to be hosted by twelve different cities but it gives different fan bases access to a different view of the conference. I could see the tournament rotating between Seattle, San Francisco, LA, and Phoenix.
AndyPanda, Building The Dam: I think its the only reasonable choice, and it recognizes that the conference is in the entertainment & hospitality business. This has been lost on the the conference in the past, and is something many of the individual athletic departments still do not comprehend.
As has been repeatedly demonstrated, there aren't that many people who are willing or interested in just watching basketball. And that's among the players, coaches, fans, media, alums, etc., never mind their family and friends.
Most people who go are there to watch their team. If its convenient, they may watch a game involving a rival, their next opponent, or a compelling matchup. If its convenient.
They are not going to watch games all day and all night day after day, which leaves a lot of hours.
Going to any tournament is a commitment of a lot of time and a lot of money. Making the decision to do that is easier if that investment can be leveraged to also see or do other things, and Las Vegas fits into that nicely. They are in the business of providing entertainment options, and making them convenient to partake of.
Have I mentioned that in order to attract a lot of folks, the tournament and its companion events need to be convenient?
The Staples Center is far from a destination location with other things to do, and that's true of many other possibilities, which is what makes the rotation of the tournament through the several of the other major markets a less attractive option as well.
Plus, most fans in the Pac-12 who are invested enough to make trips like this have already been to Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix, etc., usually in conjunction with a football game. So filling a large part of several days is just not as inviting any where else besides Las Vegas.
The move also makes the tournament available to the casual fan. Next to no one is going to just walk up to the Staples Center and decide to take a look at what's going on. In Las Vegas, where its convenient to drop in and see what's going on, the Pac-12 can attract some new customers, who might become interested in watching again. That's something that just won't happen at the Staples Center.
Scott Allen, Rule of Tree: I love the move to Vegas. Having covered both the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles and the Mountain West Tournament in Sin City, there really is no comparison. Las Vegas is a place that people like to visit, even without the added draw of seeing their team play in a postseason basketball tournament. Los Angeles--specifically downtown LA--is a place that a lot of visiting fans would like to avoid.
While the Staples Center has attracted decent crowds for tournament games featuring USC and UCLA, the place resembles a ghost town for other matchups. The Mountain West moved its tournament to Denver for three seasons and attendance never measured up to what it was in Vegas. The tournament has since returned to UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center.
I prefer a stable site to a rotating site and consider it a bonus that Las Vegas is a neutral location.