VIDEO VAULT | Thomas & Mack opens with NBA games, concerts & more

The Utah Jazz play a designated home game at Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas.

UNLV'S Runnin' Rebels are about to enter conference play in their 35th season at the Thomas & Mack Center. But college basketball is far from the only thing that puts butts in the seats there.

In fact, that first year, NBA fans could see some of the best players in the league when the Utah Jazz played a portion of their home schedule at the T&M.

"Some gaming officials say Las Vegas needs the Jazz at least as much as the Jazz needs Las Vegas," said News 3's Joel Grover after the agreement was announced. "And the reason they say, is that tickets from the 11 Jazz Las Vegas games will help pay the costs of this building -- the new Thomas Mack arena."

The deal was potentially a problem for local sports operations after the Nevada Gaming Commission weighed in.

"But with the 11 Las Vegas games off limits, Sonny Reizner says basketball bettors are turning to other teams that they can bet on any night in any city," reported Scott Reynolds.

"I don't really think it hurts us from a financial viewpoint," clarified Reizner, who presided over the influential Castaways sportsbook. "It was mostly a matter of principal, where we felt as though we're a legal entity and we should be allowed to book it."

The T&M didn't just rely on the Jazz for outside revenue.

"We could schedule anything from rodeos to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus," shrugged director Dennis Finfrock.

"As you can see, the tree goes down and the floor goes up," said News 3's Terry Kniess as a Christmas program came together. "And there's more to Thomas and Mack than meets the eye."

Just a couple of months after the facility opened its doors, rock music fans were lined up at the ticket booths.

"Concert and show promoters from all over the United States will be watching Las Vegas on December 18th," reported Dan Burns. "They want to watch ticket sales and crowd control at the Loverboy concert here at the Thomas Mack center to find out if other shows should be scheduled here."

But the main idea behind building the arena had been the Runnin' Rebels. The transition led to some initial grumbling about seating arrangements.

"You’ve got to remember, there's 4,000 season tickets that are bleacher seats, that you can't sell as reserved seats," reasoned UNLV Alumni Director Fred Albrecht. "You have what's been allotted for the opposing team, what's been allotted for students that you can't sell."

"Albrecht says Thomas and Mack opened too soon, and that's causing some of the problems," said News 3's Marla Martin. "He adds there just aren't any seats available now. But for true Rebel fans, any seat in the house will be a good one."

These days of course, the Thomas & Mack Center faces plenty of competition from other arenas—not the least of which is T-Mobile. But since opening, the T&M has hosted hundreds of concerts, thousands of basketball games and countless other diverse performances, including the National Finals Rodeo since 1985.

Now in its 35th season, UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center is still the proud home of the Runnin' Rebels.

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