Aces enjoy state-of-the-art WNBA facility as they get set to host All-Star game

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People practice at the new Las Vegas Aces training facility Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Henderson, Nev. The Aces opened the 64,000-square-foot facility before this season and is the first built specifically for a WNBA team in the league's 27-year history. (AP Photo/John Locher)

HENDERSON, Nev. – A'ja Wilson is all too happy to show off her coveted corner locker and its creature comforts in Las Vegas' new WNBA practice facility.

But the two-time league MVP isn't the only Aces player receiving preferential treatment these days.

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Their locker room, which includes a TV and mini computer at each player stall, is part of the $40 million, 64,000-square-foot facility the Aces opened before this season. Las Vegas officials say its the first built specifically for a WNBA team in the league's 27-year history. Two courts are the centerpiece of the facility, which also includes hot and cold pools, a sauna and nutrition bar among other features.

While WNBA players continue to face several challenges, including their ongoing lobbying for charter flights and salaries that would e liminate playing overseas during the offseason to supplement their incomes, life is good for the Aces.

The defending champions have a league-best 17-2 record, are the favorite to repeat according to FanDuel Sportsbook, set to host the All-Star game this weekend and all the while enjoying their first-class facility — which several NBA teams have inquired about using the facility during summer league play.

The good news for the rest of the WNBA is the Las Vegas facility won't be the only such building in the league for long: The Storm have a $64 million, 50,000-square-foot facility in the works that will be called the Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance and have many if not all the same amenities as the one for Las Vegas.

The amenities of the Aces' facility was not lost on at least one free agent when she was looking for a new place to play. Former two-time MVP Candace Parker said the building was a major reason she signed with Las Vegas.

She touted the advantages of soaking in a cool tub every day and even taking a nap in the hyperbaric chamber. On an even more basic level, Parker said having a locker to store items rather packing up gear each day to take with her is a nice change.

“I hope this has inspired others to kind of step up their game because I know how it is with ownership," Parker said. "It’s a competition, so now who’s going to be next?”

That is a major question in the WNBA, with Las Vegas and Seattle poised to set themselves apart from other franchises in a highly noticeable way.

“Seattle’s arena, that’s a top-five NBA arena,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. "These little steps and facilities, players want to be here. Who wouldn’t want to come and walk in here every day? So it’s a huge draw for players.

“When I played in New York, they had just built their facility up in White Plains. It was a shared facility, but it was equal. Whatever the Knicks had on their side, the Liberty had on their side. But as you could see, this facility is ours and ours alone, and so it makes it a little unique in that aspect.”

Another unique aspect to the Aces facility is the project was led by women, Julie Amacker and Shannon Miller of CAA ICON. Amacker also was senior director of the Allegiant Stadium and Las Vegas Raiders headquarters projects, and Miller was project manager on both sites.

Wilson said the project directors listened to what the players had to say and would go back and make changes to the final product.

“When you want to design something, I’m putting all in to a woman 100% because just the details of it,” Wilson said. “We really care about that, and I love that.”

The Storm have taken a similar approach for their facility, with women making up 85% of the project team for the building that is scheduled to open before the 2024 season.

“Our ownership group goes back to the pre-Title IX days, really recognizing what it was like to be female and not have access to following your dreams,” Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder said. The facility is "really a continuation of who we are as people and of how do we translate our experience as young people into something that is moving, uniquely moving things forward?”

The Las Vegas facility is part of Raiders owner Mark Davis' push for changes that he started when he bought the Aces franchise two years ago. His investment paid dividends last year with a WNBA championship after he signed Hammon to a league-record $1 million annual salary.

“You have to be willing to invest in and, at the end of the day, have ownership that really authentically believes in what they’re saying," Hammon said. “Because from what I can tell, a lot of people say the right thing, but don’t do the right thing. I love that it’s easy to talk the talk in front of cameras, but then to actually do it, he’s a guy that actually does it.”

Everything Davis and the Aces are doing will be in the spotlight this week as the focus on pro basketball is on Las Vegas.


AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.


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