College basketball tournaments bring a business boom to Las Vegas

Thousands of fans came to Las Vegas this week to cheer on their teams during the conference championships. (Photo: Pac-12 Conference)

Even though the Runnin’ Rebels season ended a few games too early, college basketball fever is at an all-time high this weekend.

Some fans gave it the old college try Friday night, shooting hoops outside T-Mobile Arena between Pac-12 tournament games. But most were just happy just to grab a seat and watch college basketball’s best.

"To be able to come here and have the opportunity to come and watch everybody play live especially now that I've graduated, hopefully we'll be back next year," Arizona Wildcats fan Jules Zappone said.

For the past ten days, college hoop crowds stormed the arenas of T-Mobile, the Thomas and Mack, and The Orleans hoping to help push their team deep into the postseason.

"This is the annual trip in March, it's a tradition, it's what we do in March," San Diego State fan Mike Nowatnick said.

"It's Mecca right now for basketball. It's like the Final Four all here, right at the same time," fellow Aztecs fan David Baron said.

"I had a lot of people say, 'You don't gamble, you’re going to Vegas, you're not a drinker,” Oregon Ducks fan Sharlene Syerande-Thomas said. “I said I'm going to watch the Pac-12 tournament, I can't think of a better reason to come to Vegas than this. We've had an absolute blast and we'll come every year for this tournament."

According to the LVCVA, based on last year’s numbers, the four college basketball tournaments in town create more than a $39 million economic impact and bring in more than 166,000 visitors.

"We always have it penciled in on the calendar. Even last year, when we got eliminated, we went to see the new arena and saw the finals of the Pac-12 last year," Nowatnick said.

"No, the weather has been perfect, not too hot, not too cold, the energy around town is amazing," Syerande-Thomas said.

"(I'm a) real huge Aztec fan, so we'll go wherever the Aztecs go. I'm glad it's here though," Baron said.

After the Pac-12 and Mountain West champions cut down the nets Saturday night there will be a total of 63 NCAA Division I games played in Las Vegas, but that number is going to improve to 74 starting in 2019, when the Pac-12 women’s tournament is held at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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Sports Reporter/Anchor