LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Big West Conference announced today it will move the 2021 Big West Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, presented by Hawai’i Tourism Authority, to the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, March 9-13, 2021.
Due to the cancellation of conference games during the 2020-21 schedule, all 10 men’s and nine women’s teams will compete in the 2021 championship. In prior years, only eight teams qualified for each league tournament.
“We are very appreciative of our partners at Honda Center who agreed to allow us to relocate the Big West Basketball Championships, presented by Hawai’i Tourism Authority, to Las Vegas and the Mandalay Bay Events Center in 2021,” Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly said. “bdG Sports and MGM Resorts International will provide a bubble-like setting that includes significant proactive measures to mitigate the impact of the virus and safeguard the health and safety of all teams competing in the championships.”
The Mandalay Bay Events Center plays host to the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, and hosted both the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game as well as the 2020 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Championship. Mandalay Bay also hosted the NBA G-League Winter Showcase in December 2019.
bdG Sports, in conjunction with MGM Resorts, will assist in managing the championships and administer a comprehensive health and safety plan for the event including use of an on-site medical center conducting both rapid antigen and PCR tests. All student-athletes, coaches and staff will be provided daily screenings and testing in accordance with NCAA recommendations, state and county restrictions, and contact tracing. Competitors also will be able to safely walk from their Mandalay Bay hotel rooms to the venue to compete in the championships without outside contact.
Additional safety protocols include dedicated meeting room space for each team, as well as sanitization of shared spaces such as on-site practice facilities, locker rooms, staff rooms, training areas and scorer’s table surfaces between each use. Team benches will be split into three appropriately distanced rows. Benches, basketballs and shared-use areas, such as media tables, will be sanitized at the start of each day and immediately upon the completion of each game.
“This is a great opportunity to partner with Dan and the Big West Conference for the first time,” said George Kliavkoff, President of Entertainment & Sports for MGM Resorts. “The men’s and women’s teams deliver a high-level of competition to basketball fans nationwide and we believe this will be another step in bringing back events to the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World.”
All games in the Big West Basketball Championships, presented by Hawai’i Tourism Authority, will be carried on ESPN platforms. All eight women’s contests, as well as the men’s First Round and Quarterfinal games, will appear on ESPN3. The men’s basketball Semifinals and Championship game will be aired on ESPN linear networks.
“Mandalay Bay provides the ideal campus in which to create a safe ‘stay and play’ environment for all 19 Big West teams,” said Brooks Downing, President and CEO of bdG Sports, the company that has managed NCAA basketball games and tournaments in Las Vegas since 2013. “After running two separate bubbles with success in both Las Vegas and Southwest Florida to start the season, we can implement our best practices as well as the same testing and safety protocols to assist Commissioner Butterly and his team at the Big West Conference in delivering two conference champions in March that are ready to move on to the NCAA Tournament.”
The Big West will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and the possibility of allowing limited crowds at the event. An official determination on attendance limits, spectator health and safety protocols, and ticket pricing will be made in the near future.