The return of mainstream professional sports on TV begins this weekend with UFC 249. The huge fight card will be the first of three UFC events in seven days. The Mixed Martial Arts league is preparing for a new way to present live sports with no audience and a limited number of people working on site.
While UFC is the first league back in action it won’t be the last. The Bundesliga in Germany is planning to play its first soccer match since the league stopped play, to help slow the spread of coronavirus, this weekend.
NASCAR plans to return to the track on May 17. There will be a couple of one-off golf matches before the PGA tees off its season on June 11 as well. This week the NFL released its full 2020 regular-season schedule. The other professional US sports leagues are spitballing ideas on how to begin or finish their seasons.
Professional sports stopped when Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19. The game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder never took place. Now the NBA is considering a proposal to finish its season in Las Vegas, according to the New York Times.
NBA and Las Vegas are perfect together
In July 2018, MGM Resorts became the first gaming partner with the NBA. Prior to the gambling deal, MGM Resorts International was a partner with the basketball league by presenting the NBA Summer League.
The ties between the companies are so tight that MGM Resorts even hosted a G League showcase last year. Don’t forget that MGM Resort owns a WNBA team – the Las Vegas Aces. The team plays its home games on the Vegas Strip at Mandalay Bay.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that MGM Resorts reached out to one of its closest sports partners to see how they can work together as both companies look to return to business.
MGM Resorts operates more than 10 properties in Las Vegas but will only open Bellagio and New York-New York when Nevada casinos are allowed to reopen. The NBA has the remaining regular season games, plus the playoffs to play.
The concept of creating a “bubble city” has been thrown around a lot as professional sports leagues look to resume play. The UFC is operating its fight cards in a smaller scale bubble. A whole city isn’t necessary.
The idea of a “bubble city” would allow only players, families, and workers who have been tested within a concealed space. Las Vegas has been used as a potential location but the “MGM Plan” might be the most realistic.
The MGM plan
During MGM Resorts’ first-quarter earnings call on Thursday, April 30, acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle said the company was looking forward to hosting live sports again someday. He also mentioned that the company would like to be the host for sporting events that don’t have an audience.
A day later, the NY Times shed some light on the idea that’s sometimes called the MGM Plan. The New York Times reports that MGM Resorts pitched this concept to the NBA, WNBA, NHL, and MLS. The proposal to the leagues details how MGM Resorts would house their athletes and support staff in a quarantined block on the Vegas Strip.
MGM Resorts operates all of the casino-resorts on the Vegas Strip north of Tropicana Avenue. Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay could all be utilized for this plan if necessary. The NBA version of the plan would allow players to be joined by their families, league staff, broadcast media, support staff and vendors needed to assist in operations. MGM Resorts would allow everyone access to lounges, spas, restaurants, and possibly even gambling.
Only Mandalay Bay and Luxor are mentioned as participating hotels in the NBA plan.
Mandalay Bay would be the center of the action
Mandalay Bay would be the center of the action in this proposal. The massive property has three hotels (Mandalay Bay, Four Seasons, and Delano) with more than 4,700 rooms.
The property also includes Mandalay Bay Events Center which is already home to the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. The Times says MGM Resorts could fit as many as 24 basketball courts in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. These courts could be used for games and practice.
While the athletes are busy playing games, the families would able to enjoy parts of the 11-acre Mandalay Bay Beach, spa, restaurants, and more.
While the NBA and its broadcast partners are enjoying Mandalay Bay, MGM Resorts quarantined staff would live at Luxor which is connected to Mandalay Bay.
NBA betting bonanza
This concept could be similar to the NBA Summer League where there are games all day and every night. Even though there won’t be ticket holders in attendance the league might want to keep the games broken into sessions for its broadcast partners. This would allow for easy TV scheduling.
The end of the NBA regular season could provide as many games as the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament. The first weekend of March Madness is one of the busiest times at Las Vegas sportsbooks.
While crowds might not return to sportsbooks en masse, NBA fans and bettors could watch and wager on the games using their favorite mobile wagering apps. By the time the NBA resumes its season, most -if not all – Nevada sports wagering apps should be open again for business.