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Aces enjoy experience of playing at T-Mobile Arena

A’ja Wilson couldn’t help herself. Despite the game going on in front of her, the Aces star had to pause and take in the atmosphere.

A crowd of 17,406 packed into T-Mobile Arena on Sunday to watch the Aces defeat the Phoenix Mercury 100-85 in the regular-season finale. It set a franchise record for single-game attendance since the team relocated to Las Vegas before the 2018 season.

It also helped the Aces clinch the WNBA’s No. 1 spot in attendance for the first time in franchise history as they begin defense of their title. The top-seeded Aces return to T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday when they host the No. 8 Chicago Sky in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

“I just kind of sat back and looked around,” Wilson said of Sunday’s game. “It’s truly amazing to watch how much this fan base has grown, but also just growing the game itself. There was a great energy around it.”

Sunday also might have been a glimpse into the Aces’ future. The team’s normal home — Michelob Ultra Arena — wasn’t available because of prior scheduling, so the Aces knew they would have to play somewhere else.

The Aces previously played at the Thomas &Mack Center or the MGM Grand Garden when arena availability conflicts emerged. But the team’s front office knew Sunday represented an opportunity to assess the viability of a larger-capacity arena.

“It’s always a good idea to temperature check and see what’s out there,” said Matt Delsen, the Aces’ chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

Delsen said the Aces have no plans to leave Michelob Ultra Arena, which seats about 10,000 to T-Mobile’s 18,000. And general manager Natalie Williams said the organization doesn’t want to overextend.

“We’ll look to see what our ticket sales are and how things go throughout the playoffs,” she said.

The Aces’ deal at Michelob Ultra Arena runs through the end of the 2024 season, people with knowledge of the contract said. The Aces then have two two-year options.

There are advantages to playing at T-Mobile.

Guard Jackie Young said playing in front of a larger crowd at a state-of-the-art arena was good for women’s basketball. Coach Becky Hammon said as long as the Aces fill the arena, she would be happy to play more games there.

Delsen said T-Mobile has other benefits, too. It’s a newer building, so it has technological advantages and is easier for broadcast productions to navigate. He also said there are larger locker rooms, more back-of-house space and more hospitality options.

“I loved it,” Hammon said. “There was a lot of people here. I could definitely feel it. It was rocking.”

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

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