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Volume 25 No. 24
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New Vegas WNBA Team Gets "Aces" Moniker; League President Borders Bullish On Market

MGM Resorts yesterday announced its newly acquired Las Vegas-based WNBA franchise, formerly the San Antonio Stars, will be called the Aces. Las Vegas' first major professional basketball team will begin play at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in '18 (MGM Resorts). ESPN.com's Charlie Creme noted MGM held a "grand ceremony at the House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay." WNBA execs, members of the new ownership group and the team were in attendance, alongside a "glitzy video production featuring Cirque du Soleil and confetti to unveil the new nickname and logo." MGM has committed to spending an additional $10M to upgrade Mandalay Bay Events Center and is "quickly moving to building a new practice facility, indications that this could be a different kind of ownership." Aces GM & coach Bill Laimbeer said, "People want to be here and this is a first-class operation that MGM is putting together. The commitment that they are putting forth is big and players notice that. Word of mouth will get around so fast. This will be a huge win." WNBA President Lisa Borders said of the league's plan for the Aces, "Tickets, tickets, tickets. Fill the arena, fill the arena. Vegas brings star power to our league. It's a destination city, so you are importing people that are a potential fan pool. And the data tells us that Vegas is a top-10 basketball market. We want to go where the fish are biting" (ESPN.com, 12/11). Borders added, "You’ve seen the Golden Knights come in a few months ago with 18,000 at their game; we’d like to see the same thing at Mandalay Bay. It’s a smaller arena, so obviously you can't have the same numbers, but you’d like to see a full arena" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 12/12).

SAFE BET
: In Las Vegas, Alan Snel wrote the team's new logo and name are "solid, safe and predictable." The mark is "not a home run, but the Aces fit the town’s gambling theme." MGM Resorts Chair & CEO Jim Murren said that the purchase of the franchise and re-branding into the Aces is "not a strategic move to pave the way for an NBA team at T-Mobile Arena." Murren: “They are connecting dots that shouldn’t be connected. There are no strings attached.” MGM Resorts Int'l President Bill Hornbuckle "initially did not support the WNBA team acquisition because he needed to find out more information such as identifying a strategic plan behind the purchase." But Murren "wanted the team and Hornbuckle came around." Hornbuckle said that the “cost of entry was not too much.” Snel noted it was Borders who first "approached MGM Resorts about buying the San Antonio WNBA franchise" (LVSPORTSBIZ.com, 12/11). 

POCKET ACES: Hornbuckle said of the team's new name, “Aces was a name MGM Resorts actually owned, and we went out and copyrighted it for a sports team. We tried to convince [Golden Knights Owner] Bill Foley to use it, but because of his connection to West Point he wasn’t going there. He wanted Golden Knights.” In Las Vegas, John Katsilometes notes a "new seating system with 20 floor-level sets and new scoreboard are planned" for Mandalay Bay Events Center. Hornbuckle said, “We’re working on a new infrastructure for television, because WNBA games are televised events. We’ll have new paint, a general spit-and-polish effort, and it will feel brand new to anyone who walks in.” Katsilometes also notes the arena’s beige color palette "will be replaced with the Aces team colors: gray, black and red" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 12/12).