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MGM Grand Garden Arena a star attraction at the U.S. Nationals



It is setup day at the U.S. National Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas, Nev. One thing is for certain - among the star attractions at this year's U.S. Nationals is the venue itself - the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The MGM Grand is one of the largest and most prestigious hotels on the Las Vegas strip, and it has a long tradition of hosting major sports events and entertainment concerts. This weekend, something new will be on display: amateur wrestling. When you enter the hotel, you immediately realize that wrestling has come to town. Over the check-in desk area is a huge bank of 80 television screens. Playing every few minutes, in five big images, is a short commercial about the U.S. Nationals. Action footage of wrestling stars like Kerry McCoy, Sandra Bacher, Terry Brands, Lincoln McIlravy, Sammie Henson and others are displayed for all to see. The arena itself is a world-class venue in a high traffic area in the hotel. Most sports fans have seen this arena on national television, hosting championship professional boxing events. You may have heard of some of these talents who have performed here: Evander Holyfield, Barbra Streisand, Andre Agassi, Cher, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and many more. "We have had hockey, arena football, indoor soccer, pro wrestling, tennis, plus many major concerts," said Scott Ghertner, Director of Sports and Promotions for MGM/Mirage. "All of the sports events we've had here before were professional sports." The MGM Grand is not only the host venue, it is also the title sponsor for this year's National Championships. So why international wrestling, and why now? This event, held in this arena, has been the dream of Larry Barnson, the President of the Las Vegas Sports Committee (LVSC). Working with the support of USA Wrestling's staff, Barnson has been able to cultivate the relationships and sell the sport of wrestling to the people at the MGM Grand. "This has been three years in the making," said Barnson. "We have requested this arena for three years. They have finally said they'd give us a chance." Barnson and his local organizing committee have hosted 12 U.S. National Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas in the past. According to Barnson, the ability to come back to this venue in the future will be based upon the success of this week's tournament. "First, it depends upon financial success," said Barnson. "Second, it will depend upon how orderly it is run. If people come in and act like ladies and gentlemen, and everything goes smoothly, we have a chance to return." USA Wrestling is equally fired up about the chance to present the tournament in an outstanding and prestigious setting. "USA Wrestling is excited about bringing our premier national championship to the tremendous facilities of the MGM Grand Garden Arena," said Mark Scott, USA Wrestling Director of National Events. "Wrestling fans, athletes and coaches will be treated to one of the outstanding event venues in the nation, allowing us to showcase our best athletes." Barnson sees this venue helping to move the event to a new level. He compares the potential for the U.S. National Wrestling Championships with the highly successful NCAA Wrestling Championships. "I think this tournament has needed this for years," said Barnson. "When you go to the NCAA's, everything is orderly and professional. The arena in the past, at the Convention Center, has restrained us. Now in a true arena, with professional ticket takers and ushers and staff, it is taking us to a new level. This will be a lot closer to the class of the NCAA Championships." Everyone who was in the arena during setup time is pleased with the spectator viewing. "Being able to look down allows you to see more mats," said Barnson. "The seating in the past had a slow angle, and you could only see a few mats in front of you. Now, you don't have to move. You can sit in one seat and see all of the mats." Barnson and his LVSC volunteers, along with USA Wrestling's national events staff, were busy today rolling out the 16 mats, hanging the banners, putting out the tables and making sure everything worked properly. Jim Shipman of Scoreclocks was on the venue floor, placing out the scoring clocks and testing the equipment. USA Wrestling staff, working with the MGM people, were getting all of the equipment and merchandise prepared for tomorrow, when the Western Junior Regional Greco-Roman Tournament will be held. It looked much like any other USA Wrestling event in its preparation stages. However, there is something different this year, and it's the setting for the U.S. National Championships. The MGM Grand Garden Arena is an impressive place, and the sport of wrestling will have an exciting showcase opportunity. If you are able to get to Las Vegas this weekend, you will have a great treat in store for you.
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