By ALAN SNEL
Rick Arpin of MGM Resorts International is always looking for sports programming to fill T-Mobile Arena, including its ice rink.
Brooks Downing of BD Global puts together college sports events.
Sounds like a budding sports marriage.
With the Golden Knights playing in St. Louis and Chicago between T-Mobile Arena home dates Tuesday when the Las Vegas icemen beat Nashville and Sunday when the VGK host the New York Rangers, why not have a two-day college hockey tournament at T-Mobile Arena Friday and Saturday?
“Their whole objective is that they need content,” said Downing, a former sports information director at the University of Kentucky who started his Lexington, Kentucky-based BD Global firm in 2012. “They want programming. We’re interested in providing it. It’s a good partnership.”
Downing said it took about $250,000 to put together the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational in a partnership with MGM Resorts International, which owns part of T-Mobile Arena with AEG and Golden Knights owner Bill Foley.
Downing has experience putting on college basketball tourney events at T-Mobile Arena. In fact, he organized the MGM Grand Main Event Nov. 20-22 that UNLV about six weeks ago and even arranged for UNLV to play at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as part of a branded “Runnin’ Rebels on the Strip” program when the National Finals Rodeo took over Thomas and Mack Center, UNLV’s home court.
Downing knows college hoops well from his SID days at Kentucky, which won college basketball national championships when Downing worked there.
But to arrange this week’s four hockey team gathering of Boston College, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and Arizona State, Downing had to tap his college sports network and found friends in the ECAC (one of college hockey’s well-known conferences) and college hockey’s Frozen Four.
Looks like it worked. Downing said he has already lined up Ice Vegas college tourneys for 2019 and 2020 at T-Mobile Arena, noting a few thousand fans came to watch these college hockey teams play this week. On Friday, Arizona State defeated Northern Michigan, 7-3, while Michigan Tech knocked off number 13 Boston College, 4-3. This was Downing’s first college hockey event he organized.
The Golden Knights helped plug the Ice Vegas Invitational and there was even a VGK connection to Boston College. Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee has a son who plays on the BC squad.
Downing said teams received money for participating in the Ice Vegas Invitational and lodging with help from MGM Resorts International. The teams had to travel on their own dime during their holiday breaks.
Downing said he looks forward to next year’s event. He anticipates the Golden Knights could be helping to promote the tourney even more.
Boston College is playing Northern Michigan in a consolation game Saturday, while Arizona State and Michigan Tech are facing off for the tourney title Saturday. Arizona State sent a few buses of fans, while Michigan Tech also has some hearty fans who made the trip to Las Vegas to watch college hockey. (UNLV’s hockey team has to be Division I to play in this event, Downing noted.)
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