NNBV Editor Column: Wolf Pack hoops brings Reno businesses, community together

RENO, Nev. — Let's just get one big thing out of the way right now — I grew up in Michigan, and I am a diehard Michigan sports fan.

So, if push comes to shove this spring, and Michigan and Nevada happen to play each other in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, well, sorry not sorry Reno — I'll be firmly rooting for my Wolverines.

But with that on the record, I will say that I have throughly enjoyed the past few seasons of Nevada Wolf Pack basketball, and if recent coverage in the Northern Nevada Business View is any indication, I'm hardly alone in that regard.

As Chad Hartley, Nevada Wolf Pack associate athletic director, says in the recent story, “Reno area businesses get boost from Nevada basketball team's success,” the crowds flowing into Lawlor Event Center this season have reached unprecedented levels — for any sport at Nevada.

“It's, frankly, unheard of in the history of our athletics,” Hartley told us.

What does this mean from a business perspective? Well, we're talking increased profits and revenues for regional sports bars and apparel shops; an impressive uptick in corporate and company sponsorships; and record ticket sales (and, likely, record concession sales), the likes this region has never seen relative to college basketball.

It's a perfect example of how when a city's sports teams do well, so does its business community. And we're lucky enough to have (as of this writing) the 7th best men's college basketball team in America playing right here in our backyard.

As a colleague of mine shared during coffee in downtown Reno a handful of Thursdays ago, one of the greatest things about sports is just about any type of businessperson — whether you enjoy fat bonuses as a big-time CEO of a bank or investment firm, or if you're living paycheck to paycheck as a waiter at one of our region's many dining establishment — can be a fan.

This kind of shared community camaraderie isn't wholly unique to the world of sports and recreation, of course, but it's definitely one of the easiest ways to get so many different types of people and personalities interested in one common thread.

Akin to that, I used to cover the various communities along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, as well as the town of Truckee, from 2008-2016 as editor of the Sierra Sun and (now defunct) North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspapers. One of the things I always admired about those communities is that on any given powder day, you could see a similar dynamic on a two-person ski lift: The gal on the left is a Fortune 500 Company CEO who lives in Martis Camp, while the fellow on the right is merely a “ski bum” who waits tables in hopes of scraping together enough cash for rent — and to buy a season-pass, of course.

It's the activity of skiing itself that brings people together, much like our collective rooting interest does for the Wolf Pack. And when a community of all ages and sects comes together to rally around one central theme or cause, great things can happen.

Take the most recent home game as a perfect example. I attended the Jan. 23 “Pink Out” matchup against Colorado State at Lawlor, where Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and the rest of the Wolf Pack played one of their best games of the year en route to a 100-60 throttling of the Rams, a fitting score considering it marked Eric Musselman's 100th win as Nevada head coach.

More important than wins or losses, though — the game occurred during Coaches vs. Cancer week as part of a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

In essence, players, coaches and fans wore pink to help Coach Eric and Danyelle Musselman and the Wolf Pack raise money for the American Cancer Society, as well as the Renown Institute for Cancer. Even new Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak was on hand to assist (in case you were wondering, the governor was greeted with a loud chorus of boos from the Nevada crowd, likely a combination of him being the state's first Democratic governor in 20 years, as well as the fact he's a UNLV alum).

At halftime, during a fundraising blitz backed by Danyelle and the governor, fans emptied their pockets to raise a whopping $22,800 in just a minute's time.

That's a lot of money to be donated in the span of 60 seconds, no doubt aided by the fact the team is so good, and as such, allowing a near sell-out crowd to participate in the donations, rather than a few thousand people.

Like I said, great things can happen when we rally around the same cause, and even though I still hail “Go Blue” by heart, I've felt honored since moving from Tahoe to Reno two years ago to also root for the Silver and Blue.

And, it doesn't stop there. Aside from exciting Wolf Pack football games and other Nevada sporting events, the greater Reno-Sparks region — and business community — has benefited greatly from being home to the Reno Aces and 1868 FC organizations. Heck, there have even been reports the Oakland Raiders might make a one-year pit stop at Reno's Mackay Stadium for the 2019 season prior to its move to Las Vegas.

It's only fitting, then, that the economic impact of sports and recreation is the focus of Reno's 2019 State of the City address. Set for Feb. 5 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, this year's theme is, “Changing the Game in the Biggest Little City.”

According to the city, the event hosted by the RSCVA will celebrate sports and recreation and the positive impact they have on our community, with Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and others expected to discuss future opportunities.

I, for one, am looking forward to what's in store.

Kevin MacMillan is editor of the Northern Nevada Business View. Reach him for comment at kmacmillan@swiftcom.com.


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