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Chris Jones

NBA Reps Will Make Second Trip to LV

24 May 2005

NBA representatives next week will return to Las Vegas to further inspect several potential venues for All-Star weekend in 2007 or 2008.

Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, on Friday confirmed three NBA staffers will spend Tuesday through Friday examining the Thomas & Mack Center, convention venues and several hotels.

"They're doing their due-diligence," said Ralenkotter, who added the pending site visits will be more thorough than mid-April's daylong tour headed by Ski Austin, the NBA's senior vice president of events and attractions.

Still, Ralenkotter declined to say if the NBA's second visit in two months is a sign league leaders are leaning toward naming Las Vegas host of basketball's midseason spectacular.

"Whenever we make a bid, we're always very confident," Ralenkotter said, echoing his past responses. "We'll put our best package forward and go from there."

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who seldom shies from the spotlight, also has been uncharacteristically low-key surrounding efforts to bring All-Star weekend to Southern Nevada. But Goodman said Friday he called NBA commissioner David Stern last week to explain that quiet demeanor should not be mistaken for disinterest.

"I haven't been my usual hyperbolic self, but I let him know we really want to make something happen here," Goodman said.

When asked if Stern gave any signals about Las Vegas' prospects, the mayor again turned coy. "Let's just say there's a spirit of optimism surrounding our chances," Goodman said.

Las Vegas is attempting to become the first city without an NBA franchise to host the All-Star game, which has occurred annually since 1951. Because the league is less familiar with amenities here than those in its 29 home cities, it's reasonable for Las Vegas to expect multiple site visits as its bid is evaluated, sources said.

Outside of preseason games, the NBA has not regularly used the Thomas & Mack Center since the Utah Jazz played several "home" games there in the 1983-84 season.

And while many NBA players could probably act as Las Vegas tour guides based on their frequent visits to casinos, league officials are less familiar with the city's hotels, restaurants and convention halls than those in NBA cities.

Las Vegas could offer a site fee of up to $750,000 to bring All-Star weekend here, an event Ralenkotter said could drive $100 million in visitor spending, and at least $8 million in accompanying media exposure, according to Turner Network Television.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank on Friday would only confirm that Las Vegas' All-Star application is still under review.

Memphis, Tenn., is the only other city with a confirmed interest in hosting All-Star weekend in 2007 or 2008. New Orleans and Charlotte, N.C., also have been mentioned as possible bidders, though representatives from those cities' NBA franchises have not returned calls seeking further information.

Other NBA cities are easier to rule out. A Boston Celtics executive this week told the Review-Journal his franchise will not host All-Star weekend in 2007, and the Toronto Raptors said a construction conflict will keep the event out of Canada until at least 2011.

The Indiana Pacers also are uninterested, and a Phoenix Suns executive recently told Mesa, Ariz.'s East Valley Tribune that franchise wants All-Star weekend in 2009. Next year's NBA All-Star events will occur in Houston.

Frank also was uncertain of how the NBA's labor impasse would affect Stern's stated goal of selecting 2007's All-Star host before the playoffs conclude in late June.

The NBA's seven-year labor contract with the National Basketball Players Association expires at the end of June. If no deal is reached, an ensuing lockout could force the cancellation of most offseason activities, including the 16-team Reebok Vegas Summer League scheduled for early July at UNLV's Cox Pavilion.

The previous NBA lockout reduced the 1998-99 regular-season schedule to 50 games from its standard 82.