Mechelle Voepel beat the WNBA, women’s varsity basketball and other college sports for espnW. Voipel began covering women’s basketball in 1984 and joined ESPN in 1996.
The new owner of the Las Vegas Aces, Mark Davis, said he sees opportunities for synergy between the WNBA franchise and the NFL Las Vegas Raiders, both from a sports perspective and in terms of social justice and progress on diversity.
Davis, whose ownership of the Aces was officially confirmed last Friday, spoke to reporters Wednesday on Zoom. He said the Aces will have a training/office center built with the Al Davis-Eddie Robinson Leadership Academy in Henderson, Nevada, where the Raiders are based. He hopes both will open in the spring of 2022.
The merger of these two projects with the Raiders next door creates an exciting time and an exciting future for everyone involved, Davis said. I am very excited about the Aces and the future of women’s basketball here in Las Vegas. I think these women are the best athletes in the world at what they do. And the changes they can make in the community with young women and the leadership goals they can give them are limitless.
Davis spoke about the Leadership Academy, which is part of the NFL’s overall effort to promote social justice and diversity initiatives. And he emphasized the leadership of the WNBA and its players on these issues.
I think the WNBA misled the Georgia Senate by using the vote as a weapon, not as anger or anything else, Davis said of the WNBA’s support for Rafael Warnock in the U.S. Senate race against Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler. You can learn a lot from the way they did it. I’m curious to see how the synergy between Aces and Raiders will develop. I think the academy can play a big role in bringing them together.
As for his interest in owning the Aces, Davis has been a fan of the team since MGM Resorts International purchased the franchise and moved it from San Antonio to Las Vegas prior to the 2018 WNBA season.
Speaking with Bill Hornbuckle, President and CEO of MGM Resorts International, Davis said he realized his passion for the sport and decided to buy the Aces and add them to the Raiders family, so to speak.
I’d like to help build on what MGM has built with them, Davis said, and go even further.
The Aces are one of eight original franchises since the WNBA was founded in 1997, starting with Utah Starz. After the 2002 season, the team moved to San Antonio. At Texas, first as Silver Stars and then as Stars, the team led by captain Becky Hammon reached the WNBA Finals in 2008.
Last year, in the franchise’s third season in Las Vegas, they lost to Seattle in the WNBA Finals, and A’ja Wilson is the league’s MVP. Davis said he had full confidence in the leadership of Aces general manager Dan Padover and coach Bill Laimbeer.
It’s Bills team, Davis said. He built this franchise. They were in the championship series last year. We want to win the championship this year. I want to know more about women’s basketball and how they build their team, etc. But Bill and Dan have done such a phenomenal job in this organization that I would go crazy if I stood in their way.
Davis also said the Aces are contractually obligated to play at the Mandalay Bay Events Center at least until the 2021 season, with the possibility of an extension.
It’s a great facility, Davis said. We want to do what is best for the organization. Where you play is very important to your local economy. MGM controls most of these physical assets such as naming rights and sponsorships, which lasts 365 days a year. We need those recipes to build a bait box.
Whether we are negotiating with MGM to continue the lease, considering other locations, or actually building a location for Ace … These are decisions we will make in the near future.
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