Basketball tourneys putting big bucks into Las Vegas economy

Jim Evans

Basketball tourneys putting big bucks into Las Vegas economy

CREATED Mar. 13, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The Runnin' Rebels took their first step towards securing a spot in the NCAA tournament Wednesday, with a 72 to 56 win over Air Force at the Thomas & Mack.

It was the Rebels opening game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

For the next few days, fans across the western United States will be in town for the Mountain West, Pac-12 and Western Athletic Conference Tournaments.

The game means plenty of action on the court, but it also means more money being pumped into the local economy.

The Mountain West and Western Athletic Conferences have been in Las Vegas before, but the Pac-12 is new this year, bringing a whole new set of fans to take in the sights around town.

"I think it gives people an opportunity to do more than basketball and play in Las Vegas," said Betty Smith of Boulder, Colorado.

Victor Rodriquez from Tucson, Ariz., added, "I've been in the Pac-12 when it was out in Los Angeles so it's fun to see it in Las Vegas."

Fans who've been flocking to the Valley for the Mountain West Tournament can't wait for this time of year.

"We're here for like six days. So we'll try and enjoy it and see a little bit more of Las Vegas than just the Strip," said Ruben Murillo of Phoenix, Arizona.

And that's why local tourism officials said Las Vegas is a perfect fit.

"We're really about 2.5 to 3 hours from the furthest college that is participating in our town. So it's a win, win for everyone," said Julian Dugas, director of sports marketing with LVCVA.

All three conference tournaments run through Saturday with the winners getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which kicks off next week.

While Las Vegas won't be hosting any tournament games, it's still the place to be for March Madness.