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Big West announces deal to bring tournaments to Henderson

Updated June 24, 2021 - 4:33 pm

The Big West announced Thursday that it had signed a multiyear agreement to hold the conference’s basketball tournaments at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson beginning in March.

The tournament was held this year at Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay, a move precipitated by California’s pandemic restrictions.

The five-day tournament will be held March 8-12. The conference consists of California colleges plus the University of Hawaii.

The Big West move means the Big Sky is the only NCAA Division I conference based west of the Rocky Mountains to not hold its basketball tournaments in Southern Nevada. The Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast and Western Athletic conferences hold their men’s and women’s tourneys in Las Vegas on or near the Strip.

The Big West has a long history in Las Vegas with UNLV a former conference member and it being the first conference to host its tournament in the valley in 1994.

“Obviously, it’s changed since the mid-’90s when UNLV was in the conference and the membership has changed significantly,” said Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly. “It will be fantastic. I joked a little bit about the Silver Knights and the organization getting the keys to the facility after construction some time in February, and we’ll be out here not long after working with them to make sure the scoreboards, stat boards and everything else will be ready to go for that first championship game.”

The 6,000-seat Dollar Loan Center is scheduled to be completed in February. It is set to be the home of the Henderson Silver Knights, the Golden Knights’ American Hockey League affiliate and the yet-to-be named Indoor Football League team. Aces owner Mark Davis has had discussions about bringing the WNBA franchise to the arena.

The size of the arena nestled in Green Valley Ranch is perfect for the type of crowds the conference expects, Butterly said.

“That’s one of the benefits that this facility brings in many ways rather than having 18,000-20,000 seats for the Big West, having 6,000 is an ideal situation,” Butterly said. “It allows us to grow and really make this Henderson’s basketball championship in many ways.Our fans from Hawaii, Northern California and Southern California will get here. If you have 1,000 or 2,000 people in here for the first two rounds of the tournament it’s going to feel full because the intimacy of the facility.”

Mayor Debra March is claiming the tournament as Henderson’s, noting the influx of pro and now college sports making their way to the Las Vegas suburb.

“It’s exciting to see the different sports teams that are choosing Henderson to play their games. To have the Big West Conference, that’s a big deal,” March said.

The versatility the arena offers is just what Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz envisioned, as the facility is being built as a public-private partnership between the city and the Knights organization.

“The entire facility was built with that in mind,” Bubolz said. “Obviously hockey, basketball and a lot of other community events. From graduations, concerts and other family activities, it really is a multi-purpose event facility.”

Mick Akers can be reached at makers@reviewjournal.com.

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