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Chris Jones

NBA to Discuss Las Vegas All-Star Game Potential

22 April 2005

NEW YORK -- NBA leaders will convene today inside a posh Manhattan hotel for a gathering that could advance or crush Las Vegas' nascent bid to host the league's All-Star weekend in February 2007.

And though he won't be in attendance, the man who headed Denver's effort to land this year's midseason extravaganza said Thursday his organization supports bringing basketball's All-Star weekend to the Thomas & Mack Center.

"It makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels," Jeff Plush, senior director of business development for the Kroenke Sports Enterprises, said by telephone from his Denver office. "In many respects an All-Star game is just another big convention, and Las Vegas does things like that every day.

"The limousines, hotels, bus companies -- all the things you have to have to make the event work -- you already have 10 times over. I really don't see any disadvantages."

Over 55 seasons, including next year's game scheduled for Houston, the NBA has always staged its All-Star game in a city with its own NBA franchise. But Plush said Las Vegas' lack of a team could become an advantage when it prepares its bid for the 56th All-Star game.

"The NBA keeps the majority of the tickets, so people who are your everyday supporters don't always get to go" to All-Star events, said Plush, whose company owns the Denver Nuggets as well as the team's arena, Pepsi Center. "But Las Vegas wouldn't have the issues with season ticket holders, team sponsors or luxury box owners that you'd experience with an NBA arena."

Plush also believes the NBA commissioner would be willing to risk staging the event in neutral city.

"No one is better than David Stern at having a different vision," Plush said. "This year it could be about Las Vegas; in other years it may involve London or Paris to further market the league. But right now, Vegas makes sense."

Whether other NBA representatives feel the same should become more clear today. Team representatives and league officials on Thursday kicked off the NBA's semiannual Board of Governors gathering with a handful of subcommittee meetings followed by an evening reception at The St. Regis Hotel, a 101-year-old Manhattan landmark four blocks south of Central Park.

Today's meetings will focus on numerous business and basketball-related issues, including the proposed All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. League officials were mum on that topic Thursday, but Stern is expected to address any developments this afternoon, an

NBA spokesman said.

In the interim, Sacramento Kings executive Gavin Maloof said other team owners he casually spoke with at dinner Thursday were warm to the idea of Las Vegas serving as a host destination.

"I did some lobbying," said Maloof, whose family has assumed an integral role in the local All-Star bid thanks to its ownership of the Kings and Las Vegas' Palms hotel-casino. "I spoke to a few owners, and everyone seems positive. "One owner said he wishes it was held in Las Vegas every year."

Maloof declined to say which owners he spoke with Thursday. Overall, he said he's discussed the Las Vegas bid with high-level representatives of eight other franchises, each of whom spoke favorably of Las Vegas as an All-Star host.

Plush said the NBA traditionally uses All-Star weekend as a reward to its franchises. Though the game itself brings little revenue to the host team, its presence is a major financial boost for the host community.

The Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated February's All-Star weekend boosted visitor spending by approximately $30 million. Plush said he's confident the total was actually much higher, notwithstanding the valuable worldwide media exposure that showcased the Rocky Mountain region before a worldwide television audience.

"You get to be the epicenter of the basketball universe for a period of time," Plush said. "The benefits of that are not quantifiable, but we know they'll have a really positive effect on the city of Denver and this region for a very long time."

The only sporting event Denver could ever host that would supersede this year's All-Star weekend, Plush added, would be a Winter Olympic games.

While Denver's bid took an estimated 20 months to prepare, Las Vegas will neet to put together its offer within the next three to four weeks. Still, Plush said the bid process is neither cumbersome nor expensive and should not present an obstacle to local leaders. "It's mainly a lot of paperwork -- seating charts and things like that," Plush said.