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Official Review by Tony Seber, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The iconic Thomas & Mack Center was first opened in December 1983. The arena is located on the campus of UNLV and is the annual home of the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament. The facility has hosted everyone from Diana Ross to Eric Clapton. The Thomas & Mack hosts the National Finals Rodeo every December.
The building is most famous locally for being the home of the 1990 and 1991 Runnin’ Rebels basketball teams. The 1990 team was led by Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon, and Jerry Tarkanian coached the team to 45 straight wins with a title in 1990 and an unbeaten run to the 1991 semi-finals against Duke and Christian Laettner. The 1990 title remains the only national title of any sort won by a team from Las Vegas. The legend of that team still draws a raucous loyal following to all home games.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are plenty of concessions available at the venue. The food is the basic sporting event fare with few exceptions. But if you are going to party first, eat maybe, the T&M could be your place. Service is excellent and lines are short.
The food is average at best. Seventy-five percent of the concession stands offer the same menu of hot dogs, beer, nachos, etc. There was only one concession stand that advertised healthy offerings and that was a chicken Caesar wrap. The food is in line with the pricing, which is modest and cheaper than many other college facilities we have visited.
The Thomas & Mack Center is a Coca-Cola facility. Soda is offered by the bottle as well as via fountain. The most popular spots in the center are the various alcohol vendors throughout the facility. Beer is available at all concession stands. There are both aluminum bottles and drafts of Coors and Bud. There are several open bars that are sprinkled throughout the concourse. There are a variety of craft beers both on tap and in bottles. These bars also service a full line of premium distilled spirits. There is also a premier tequila cart that offers everything from Jose Cuervo at $14/shot to Partida Elegante for $60.
Attending a basketball game at UNLV is a quality experience for a basketball fan from anywhere. The local product has struggled at times, but the Mountain West Conference in general has a good stable of teams and the Thomas & Mack is one of the best venues in the conference if not the nation. It's a great site for out of town fans to take in a game without too much hassle.
The Thomas & Mack Center is a product of 1980's industrial strength stadium engineering. It is solid, but not that aesthetically appealing. The venue has good viewing from everywhere with few if any obstructions. There could be more, smaller scoreboards so not to constantly have to look up to the big board. These could also be used to share more in game data. It probably helps with the sight lines, but an interested fan has to wait for data to populate on the few auxiliary boards that are tucked in corners.
The Opening sequence for the game as choreographed by the Rebel mascot and the voice of the rebels for 40 years Dick Calvert is not to be missed. Hey Reb, the UNLV mascot, is one of the best in college athletics and he is a creative, fun addition to the viewing experience. He pops up throughout the game to join or lead cheers and is rarely intrusive or annoying. Dick Calvert has been announcing Rebel's basketball games for 44 years as of the end of the 2015-2016 season. He roars to the crowd's delight with fireworks booming during the team's introduction. He has only missed 5-6 games in all of these years. His most honored stat is that UNLV has made a three point field goal in every single game since the 3-point line was first introduced in college basketball beginning with the 1986-87 season.
All of the seats are quality in the arena. It is well designed although the upper elevations may give some pause if you don't love heights.
UNLV is located east of the strip in an unincorporated area of Clark County. There is not much beyond the university in the general area. However, there is much within a five minute cab ride. There is nothing available or suggested that is within safe walking distance. The Hard Rock Hotel is the nearest hotel.
The Rebel fan base is enthusiastic and loyal. There are larger crowds attending UNLV basketball than any other program in the Mountain West and all of the Pac-12 teams, with the exception Arizona. Overall these fans emit a great game day vibe.
Despite UNLV's mediocre play of late, they still average over 13,000 per game. The historic UCLA program averages 8,100 per game. The fans come to get their drink on, cheer for their team, and have a good time. UNLV basketball fans are engaged, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic.
The Thomas & Mack Center is a few miles off the strip at Swenson and Tropicana. It is easy access from McCarron Airport or any of the south Las Vegas Blvd hotel properties.
There is Uber Service and Cab service to the venue from anywhere in the Vegas valley. There is a drop off area right in front of the arena for drop off and pick up before and after games.Traffic can be pretty heavy at game time because that area already has a lot of traffic not associated with the game coming out of the airport. It is wise to arrive early.
Parking is plentiful and free. It is the best value and it is right outside the venue.
There is construction around the facility at the end of the 2015-2016 season, but none of the gates are blocked. There are plenty of gates and easy entrance to the game through the main gates facing Tropicana.
The arena has adequate areas to navigate and visit the arena concourse. This is well worth the lap around the facility to see the posters reflecting all of the historic events that the Thomas & Mack Center has hosted over the last 30+ years.
The restrooms are plentiful and clean. Snack stand lines move quickly. The bars can get crowded, but they are plentiful so move on if one is busy to another nearby. During the pre-game and early game, UNLV has lots of merchants and vendors who are hawking wares in the concourse. This can get a little annoying, but they clear out before halftime.
Attending a basketball game during the UNLV season is not to be missed for a college basketball fan. The fan base is tremendous and makes anyone want to root for the Rebels. The venue is easy to visit from any strip venue and your night only begins at the Thomas & Mack.
UNLV basketball is a very affordable ticket for any basketball fan. Certainly cheaper than many other storied programs. The beverages are epic and food is affordable. Parking is free and Uber is cheap. Put this on your bucket list.
Extra points for being located in the entertainment capital of the world, and for the ability to sit beneath an NCAA Championship banner. Free parking and affordable tickets also garner an extra point.
Member Review by MickAkers
The Thomas and Mack Center is located just a few miles from the glitz and the glamour of the world famous Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. Inside the T&M the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV offer as good of a show as anything that the Strip's hotels and casinos have to offer. Once home to Jerry Tarkanian and his highly successful UNLV teams "" including the 1990 team that won UNLV's one and only national title "" the UNLV program has seen a spike in excitement the past seven years under former coach Lon Kruger who led the Rebels to four NCAA tournament appearances in the past five years "" including a memorable Sweet Sixteen run back in 2007.
Named after two high-profile Nevada bankers who were responsible for the funding of the arena "" E. Perry Thomas and Jerome Mack "" the 18,776 seat arena (for basketball games) opened in 1983 and saw an extensive re-modeling in 1999 to modernize the arena. A smaller upgrade in 2008 upgraded the arena's visuals, including a new four-sided LED scoreboard, LED advertising panels on the scorer's table and the majority of the balcony being fitted with LED strips for advertising and information purposes.
In addition to being home the of the Rebels basketball program, the Thomas and Mack has seen its share of big events in the venue's 28-year history. The T&M once was the alternate home to the Utah Jazz back in the mid 1980's and was the site of NBA legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar breaking Wilt Chamberlin's all time leading scoring mark back when the Los Angeles Lakers were hosted by the Jazz in 1985. The FIFA America's Championships were held at the Thomas and Mack in 2007 which put the USA Basketball team up against the best of the rest of the world, and gave the winner of the tournament an automatic berth in the 2008 Olympic Games. The arena has been the home of the biggest rodeo of them all""the National Finals Rodeo"" since 1985, as well as the home of the men's and women's Mountain West Basketball Tournament for nine out of the last 12 years. In addition, other events at T&M include top boxing matches, speeches by Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, and many top-bill concerts.
4725 S Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89119
4700 S Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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