WAC basketball tourney back to Reno in 2009-10

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By SCOTT SONNER Associated Press Writer

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- After a two year hiatus, the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament will return to Nevada's Lawlor Events Center in the spring of 2009 and 2010, WAC officials said Wednesday.

"The Reno, Sparks and Lake Tahoe area has become a favorite destination for fans from throughout the WAC," WAC Commissioner Karl Benson said in announcing the decision.

New Mexico State hosted last season's WAC tourney in Las Cruces, N.M., and will host the league's men's and women's championships again in March 2008. Reno also was the site of the 2004 and 2005 tourneys.

"After the success of the WAC basketball tournaments in 2005 and 2006, we are excited to bring this premier sporting event back to our university and community and to be able to showcase all that this area has to offer to thousands of visitors," Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said Wednesday.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority joined the university in submitting the bid for the tournament and will co-host the events March 10-14, 2009 and March 9-13, 2010.

Others who submitted bids were Salt Lake City, New Mexico State, Boise State and Fresno State.

"We are proud to showcase the destination in 2009 and 2010 and look forward to showing players and fans why Reno-Tahoe is known as America's Adventure Place," said Ellen Oppenheim, president and CEO of the RSCVA.

The university was alone in its bid last time around, but Groth said they "felt it was important to do this together" with the RSCVA this time around.

The Lawlor Events Center seats 11,536. Oppenheim said they sold 55,655 tickets for the five days of the 2006 tournament in Reno and only a small portion of those went to locals.

"Bringing the tournament back to Reno will bring thousands of fans to the area and these fans will stay in our hotels and take advantage of all that the Reno-Tahoe area has to offer," she said.

Nevada has won the last four WAC regular season titles and three of the last four league tournaments. Coach Mark Fox said the successful campaign to bring the tourney back to Reno demonstrates the school and RSCVA's commitment to WAC basketball.

"This community has shown its ability to be a great host of the event," Fox said Wednesday.

"I believe it is the perfect venue for such an event," added Kim Gervasoni, coach of the women's team.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-10-03-07 1606MDT

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