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Las Vegas WNBA team unveils name, other details — VIDEO

Updated December 11, 2017 - 6:01 pm

Somewhere behind — and beneath — the torrents of red and black confetti, MGM Resorts International president Bill Hornbuckle stood, triumphantly, alongside the likes of WNBA president Lisa Borders, Clark County commissioner Stephen Sisolak and Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman.

The collective that helped bring professional basketball to Southern Nevada was celebrating its success.

In May, their vision will come to fruition when the Las Vegas Aces make their WNBA debut.

The WNBA and MGM unveiled the Aces to a conglomerate of media members, high school basketball players and local professional athletes — like Reid Duke and Oscar Dansk of the Vegas Golden Knights — on Monday afternoon during an hour-long ceremony at Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues.

MGM acquired the San Antonio Stars from the NBA in October, and the Review-Journal reported last month that the WNBA had filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the rights to “Las Vegas Stars.”

Hornbuckle confirmed that the franchise was, considering keeping the nickname, but said Monday that MGM owned the rights to “Las Vegas Aces” for more than a year. The group preferred the new identity and finalized the team name “about a month ago.”

The logo is a sleek red, white and black diamond featuring the franchise’s name and the city’s initials.

“We had looked at names for a while for various things we were looking at doing,” Hornbuckle said. “And so we think it’s something that’s double entendre to the city, the excitement to the community.

”We think it provides a name for excellence. We think it’s something people can get behind. It’s simplistic.”

Hornbuckle also announced MGM’s plans to renovate the Mandalay Bay Events Center, where the Aces will play their home games. It previously has hosted boxing events, UFC bouts and preseason NBA basketball games.

The planis to spend $10 million toward improving the arena’s scoreboard, seats, locker rooms and surfaces in preparation for the upcoming WNBA season, which includes 17 home games.

“You go in and it’ll feel a new venue,” he said.

Borders said the Aces also have the league’s permission to play at MGM Grand Garden Arena and T-Mobile Arena, if necessary. She said that the team’s success, in its inaugural season, will be determined by its ticket sales.

Prospective spectators can make a deposit on AXS.com toward season tickets, which go on sale to the public in early 2018.

“It’s all measured based on how many people are in the arena,” she said. “How well the community embraces the product will be demonstrated by if the arena is full or not.”

The Aces, playing as the Stars, were the worst team in the WNBA in 2017, and finished with an 8-26 record. They won the WNBA Draft lottery and the top pick in the 2018 draft. However, they return a bevy of young players like former No. 1 overall pick Kelsey Plum, point guard Moriah Jefferson and center Kayla Alexander.

Jefferson and Alexander were both in attendance Monday, along with Aces general manager and head coach Bill Laimbeer, who said the team has a good nucleus of young players.

“Hopefully the city itself, Las Vegas, is going to attract” players in free agency, he said. “Discipline. Compete. That’s how you win. You’ve got to be disciplined. You can’t be Helter Skelter all over the place.”

Laimbeer coached the Detroit Shock to three WNBA championships and helped build a perennial contender with the New York Liberty, but said he was drawn toward the opportunity to rebuild the Aces.

He, like everyone else involved with the franchise’s relocation, believes there’s an abundance of potential for the WNBA in Las Vegas.

“An Ace is their name, and an ace signifies that you’re the best, you’re at the top of the game of whatever you’re trying to do,” Borders said. “That’s who MGM is. I think they’re going to pull that value and bring that to life with this team.”

What We Know:

— MGM bought the franchise from the NBA in October.

— MGM decided on the name “Las Vegas Aces” about a month ago, and the logo features a red, white and black diamond with the team’s name and the city’s initials.

— NBA legend Bill Laimbeer will serve as the Aces’ general manager and head coach.

— MGM plans to invest $10 million to renovate the Mandalay Bay Events Center, where the Aces will play their home games.

— Prospective fans can put money down toward season tickets on AXS.com. Season tickets won’t be available in their entirety until 2018.

What We Don’t Know:

— Laimbeer has yet to assemble a coaching staff.

— The roster, in all likelihood, is not finalized. Free agency starts Feb. 1 and the WNBA Draft, for which the Aces hold the No. 1 pick, is in April. Possible top draft prospects include South Carolina center A’Ja Wilson, Russian center Maria Vadeeva and Tennesee guard Diamond Deshields.

— Exact season-ticket pricing was not announced, though official said some tickets would sell for as low as $20.

— Prospective radio and television deals was not announced.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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