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‘A space for themselves’: Aces unveil historic practice facility

When Aces general manager Natalie Williams looks around the team’s new practice facility, it makes her reminisce about the early days of the WNBA.

Williams was drafted by the Utah Starzz, the first iteration of the Aces franchise, in 1999 and made her debut during the league’s third season. She remembers the wide range of facilities she played in during her career.

Now, Williams is reminded about just how far the league has come whenever she shows up to work.

“I would’ve loved to have had all of this,” she said.

The Aces completed their move into their new 64,000-square-foot Henderson practice facility — dubbed Aces Headquarters — on Friday.

It’s the first complex built solely for the use of a WNBA team in the league’s 27-year history. The Aces begin training camp for the 2023 season Sunday.

The new facility is located near Raiders headquarters and the Intermountain Health Performance Center. (Raiders owner Mark Davis also owns the Aces.)

Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said the completion of Aces Headquarters is proof of the investment the franchise’s ownership and the city of Las Vegas have made into the Aces and women’s basketball.

“It is the bar,” she said. “This is the standard of who we are.”

Designs for Aces Headquarters, which will host basketball and business operations for the team, began in February 2021, and interior construction began eight months later in October.

The facility includes two basketball courts, a locker room with individual vanities for each player; a player lounge that includes a kitchen; weight and training rooms; family rooms; and a film study room complete with massage chairs that Wilson and Williams said they were excited to test out.

Aces coach Becky Hammon said the facility was a major factor in her decision to join the franchise last season.

“I think it puts our sport progressing forward in the right direction,” Hammon said. “We want to give these women every tool possible to be as good as they possibly can be on that basketball court, but also an area where they can decompress.

“They can come here and hang out, just have a space for themselves.”

While the basketball courts and locker rooms might draw immediate attention, the team’s new training and weight room might have the most impact on the court. The new facility includes hot and cold plunge pools, a hydro treadmill, cryotherapy, an infrared sauna and a nutrition bar.

Its open-concept design also lets the Aces training staff and medical department communicate easier.

The Aces said the weight room upgrades will help the team understand the individual profile of their athletes better. The team hired Jeremiah Welch from the Detroit Pistons organization to become its head performance coach during the offseason, and the new measuring equipment will allow the team’s strength and conditioning staff to tailor workout programs for individual players.

Wilson, who said her offseason training is focused around her specific athletic profile, is excited for other Aces players to get similarly individualized programs.

Welch said the new approach will also help players deal with recovery and injuries, along with general strength and conditioning.

“We really want to make sure we’re objectively treating them with their best needs in mind,” he said.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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