The NCAA Basketball Tournament’s first weekend traditionally draws one of the year’s largest tourism crowds to Las Vegas, before visitation tails off notably for the event’s conclusion over the following two weekends.
That’s about to change. In 2023, T-Mobile Arena will host the tournament’s West Regional—the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds—for the first time ever, a development that could cement Las Vegas as a regular tournament host site. And it happened sooner than expected.
“It was our first bid cycle, and I don’t think anyone was expecting it,” says Lisa Motley, director of sports marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “[But] the NCAA knew there was popularity in Las Vegas, so I think that helped lay the groundwork. It was very nice that we were able to get one of those marquee events right away. We’re thrilled about it.”
MGM Resorts headed the effort to land the basketball regional, but Motley was involved in support and in charge of submitting hundreds of other bids across numerous college sports and levels of competition. In the city’s first time eligible to host events since the NCAA scrapped a law against holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, Las Vegas landed everything from Division II golf regionals in 2023 and 2024 to the 2026 Frozen Four NCAA hockey finals.
It’s all seen as a precursor to the ultimate prize—putting on a men’s hoops Final Four at Allegiant Stadium.
“I don’t think it’s a secret about the Final Four,” Motley says. “We’ve been working on NCAA stuff for 10-plus years, and we’ve had a preliminary strategy in place since 2018. Now it’s in our lap to figure out, ‘Who are the players?’ What does our strategy look like?’”
Final Four host sites have already been awarded through 2026, but Las Vegas is seen as a good bet to land one of three still available before the end of the decade. The proposal process for the next set of dates kicks off this fall, and Motley’s team has already begun preparing its bid.
With 150,000 available hotel rooms and ample space for ancillary events, Las Vegas comfortably meets the NCAA’s required criteria for a Final Four location. The city also has a track record of success in college basketball, with five conferences—the Pac-12, Mountain West, Western Athletic, West Coast Conference and Big West—having played their postseason tournaments here this year.
Some have taken to colloquially referring to the period from the first conference tournament (typically in early March) through the conclusion of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament as “Vegas Madness.” With a regional upcoming and a potential Final Four looming, that local madness appears to be extending.
“The Final Four is not just a basketball game at Allegiant Stadium. There are fan fests and parties all through the destination. It’s a citywide event,” Motley says. “It will drive incremental visitation just with a Final Four and what that means, and who wouldn’t want to be in the destination when the Final Four is happening here? I think we’re a natural fit.”