New Las Vegas Aces owner Mark Davis said he sees opportunities for "synergy" between the WNBA franchise and the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders, both from a sports standpoint and in regard to social justice issues and progress with diversity.
Davis, whose ownership of the Aces was officially approved last Friday, spoke with reporters on a Zoom call Wednesday. He said the Aces will have a training/office space facility built along with the Al Davis-Eddie Robinson Leadership Academy in Henderson, Nevada, where the Raiders have their headquarters. He expects both to open in spring 2022.
"The convergence of those two projects with the Raiders right next door is making for an exciting time and future for all involved," Davis said. "I'm truly excited about the Aces and future for women's basketball here in Las Vegas. I believe these women are the greatest athletes in the world at what they do. And the difference they can make in the community with young women and the leadership goals that they can give them are limitless."
Davis talked about the leadership academy being part of the NFL's overall pledge to fund initiatives on social justice and diversity. And he credited the leadership of the WNBA and its players on those issues.
"I believe the WNBA flipped the Senate in Georgia, by using the vote as their weapon, rather than anger or anything else," Davis said of the WNBA's support of Raphael Warnock in a U.S. Senate race against Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler. "There's so much to learn from how they did that. I'm interested to see how the synergy between the Aces and the Raiders will grow. I think that the academy can have a big part of bringing them together."
As for his interest in owning the Aces, Davis has been a fan of the team since MGM Resorts International bought the franchise and moved it from San Antonio to Las Vegas before the 2018 WNBA season.
In conversations with the president/CEO of MGM Resorts International, Bill Hornbuckle, Davis said he realized he had a passion for the sport and decided to buy the Aces and "bring them into the Raider family, so to speak."
"I'd like to help build on what MGM has built with them," Davis said, "and take it even further."
The Aces began as one of the original eight franchises from the WNBA's launch in 1997, starting as the Utah Starzz. After the 2002 season, the team moved to San Antonio. While in Texas, first as the Silver Stars and then the Stars, the team went to the WNBA Finals in 2008, led by point guard Becky Hammon.
Last year, the franchise's third season in Las Vegas, it lost to Seattle in the WNBA Finals and had the league's MVP in A'ja Wilson. Davis said he has the utmost confidence in the leadership of Aces general manager Dan Padover and coach Bill Laimbeer.
"This is Bill's team," Davis said. "He's built this franchise. They were in the championship series last year. We plan to win the championship this year. I want to learn more about women's basketball, how they structure the rosters and all that stuff. But Bill and Dan have done such a phenomenal job with this organization that I'd be crazy if I got in the way."
Davis also said the Aces are contractually obligated to play at Mandalay Bay Events Center at least through the 2021 season, with options to extend that.
"It's a great facility," Davis said. "We're looking to do what's best for the organization. The venue you play in is very important to your local economy. MGM controls most of those fixed assets, such as naming rights, the sponsorships that go 365 days a year. We're going to need those revenue streams to build the coffers of the Aces.
"Whether that happens through negotiations with MGM to continue the lease, or we look at other places, or we do build a place for the Aces ... those are decisions that we'll make in the near future."