On Tuesday, Mitchell Etess, Chief Executive Officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA) and President and CEO of Mohegan Sun, will convene the first staff meeting specifically called to plan the staging of the 2014 American Athletic Conference’s first women’s basketball postseason tournament.
This is an event Etess and the Mohegan Sun Arena have long wanted to host. And after years of competing with Hartford’s XL Center – which hosted the event for the last nine years – it finally won approval earlier this month from the nation’s newest conference.
The American, of course, is the reconfigured version of the Big East, whose presidents long disdained the idea of holding a postseason tournament in a place where gambling tables lurk. But with most of the opposing voices gone, the new conference members joined the old and unanimously voted to hold at least the 2014 tourney in Uncasville. The conference holds the option for 2015.
“We have always felt, even from the previous time when we weren’t accepted by the Big East, that it was unlikely the XL Center could have provided a better financial package than us,” Etess said Thursday.
Etess would not say what financial incentives were offered to The American to lure them to the Mohegan Sun.
“We also provide other ancillary benefits that help make all the events we have here successful; free parking, easy access to restaurants and so forth,” Etess said. “I would think The American is thinking ‘We can enhance our revenue by selling more tickets and reduce our overhead because it’s cheaper to operate here [than in Hartford].
“You can do whatever you want as a facility for every single case [client]. It’s a matter of creating a package that allows them to minimize their risk, but also allows us to minimize ours. We can do whatever we feel we need to and with every decision we make, you make an individual assessment.
“We feel this exposes our destination to people far outside of our area [the American has teams in Houston, Dallas, Orlando and Tampa, to name a few]. I think the teams [in the American] are going to find fans interested in coming here. I can’t tell you specifically what the [financial] arrangement was, but we don’t make bad decisions for us and it was appealing to them. I would call it “competitive.”
Etess said the Mohegan Sun is excited about having The American join its long list of sporting events including its own WNBA Connecticut Sun, the WNBA All-Star game in July, an NCAA men’s basketball events, state men’s college basketball games and CIAC state basketball playoffs.
“We don’t look at this as we would a convention. We look at this as a major event,” Etess said.
Mostly, Etess believes its misleading to bemoan the loss of revenue to Hartford [by losing the five-day tournament] at the expense of realizing there will be others in the state positively impacted.
“What’s been misconstrued is there is a tremendous economic benefit to having the tournament here – that just doesn’t include us,” Etess said. “The prosperity and money the tournament brought to Hartford will bring the same to businesses that surround us. Not everyone will stay here [at the Mohegan Sun hotel]. We don’t have enough rooms. And not everyone wants to stay here. Hotels and restaurants in this county will be doing big business because of the tournament.
“When I hear the loss of the tournament is costing Hartford something like $2 million, I understand that. But it’s not revenue that is leaving the state. It’s far better the tournament is here than in Memphis or elsewhere.”