Aces make WNBA history with a training facility just for them

The 80,000-square-foot facility cost $40 million and includes two practice courts.Courtesy of Las Vegas Aces

Candace Parker never had a locker she didn’t share with a teammate for the first 15 years of her legendary WNBA career, during which she was named an All-Star seven times and won the league’s rookie of the year, defensive player of the year, two MVP awards and two championships.

That all changed this year, when Parker joined the Las Vegas Aces just in time for the opening of their $40 million practice facility in Henderson, Nev.

The 80,000-square-foot facility — which sits next door to the Las Vegas Raiders’ HQ and training base — is the first women-specific, unshared training facility in the WNBA’s 27-year history (the Seattle Storm also have their own training facility under construction). The building, designed by Gensler and built by Burke Construction (CAA Icon was the owners’ rep), includes two practice courts, a weight room, sauna, hot and cold pools (and a host of other new-age recovery tools and spaces), a family lounge and nursery, and a public team store.

It befits the league’s reigning champs, who also lead the WNBA in revenue and season-ticket holders (over 6,200) for their home games at MGM-owned Michelob Ultra Arena.

“You can’t really quantify by wins or losses the power of ‘I see you; I believe in you, I want to invest in you,’ and that’s what [Aces and Las Vegas Raiders owner] Mark Davis sees in women,” said the team’s president, Nikki Fargas. “What’s he doing is telling not just these players, but everyone, that they deserve the best because they’re some of the best athletes in the world. Resources need to match that.”

Seven of the WNBA’s 12 teams share an arena with a men’s pro or college team. But only a few have their own training facilities and team headquarters, and only the Aces have one standing on its own, not connected to a men’s training facility. It’s a true home for the team — and its business units — where it spends most of its time and where organizational culture can be created.

There is also a team store, weight room, hot and cold pools and a nursery.Courtesy of Las Vegas Aces

That’s especially valuable in professional women’s basketball, which, for much of its existence, has required an itinerant life of its players, even the best ones, like Parker. Fargas, who played college basketball at Tennessee, then later coached at UCLA and LSU, said that the stark reality for women’s basketball players is that they have better facilities in college than they do in the pro ranks.

“Here, in the league, we’ve had to bounce around a little bit,” Fargas said. “I love that we have consistency for the players, I love that we have a place where they can call home, a place where they know you can go here every day of the week and get the proper training that you need.”

The facility’s interior design, especially the black and white color scheme — Aces owner Davis inherited a reverence for the black and white color combination from his father, the late Al Davis, that may only be matched by Cruella de Vil — creates an imposing but clean environment for a team that’s reached four consecutive WNBA semifinals, winning its first title last season.

Design began in February 2021 with the players’ daily journey through the facility one of the primary building blocks for the Gensler design team, a purposely diverse group that included project architect Jessica Donoghue, project designer Susan Han, design manager Kainoa Westermark, and design principal Steve Chung. Part of an open and flowing floor plan, the bathroom includes makeup vanities and is just steps away from the locker room. Each custom locker unit contains a TV and minicomputer.

“We had a really great time getting to have deep conversations with the players, to dive into what was sacred to their routine, what were things from other training facilities that they’ve been to in the past that they loved or hated, what would be on their wish list,” said Donoghue, “and the outcome is we got this space really catered to them.”

Courtesy of Las Vegas Aces

The training facility’s nursery lounge might be most emblematic of that purpose. The multiroom suite includes a napping room and places for kids to play or watch TV, as well as a refrigerator for storing breast milk. The room is already being used regularly. Parker has an 18-month-old son, while another Aces player, Kayla George, has a daughter less than a year old. Aces players, or other members of the organization, don’t have to pick between mothering and working, or between being with their family or their team. The training facility is a home for Parker, and her baby, too.

The two practice courts are surrounded by bleachers and there is a public entrance that includes a team store. Training facilities historically haven’t been revenue generators, but between the team store and the ability to host public events, like basketball tournaments (there are four locker rooms besides the Aces’ exclusive one) or corporate functions, this one will be.

“The building is made for us to invite other entities without taking away, mind you, from the players’ needs,” Fargas said. “They are first and foremost.”

During their five-year existence in Las Vegas, the Aces have practiced and trained at a variety of places, including assorted high school gyms, a local basketball academy, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and at an Ultimate Fighting Championship facility. The new venue gives the team a significant advantage against its WNBA competition, not least in recruiting talent. Head coach Becky Hammon joined last year, and Parker this past offseason, in part because of the team’s training facility plans.

It’s not just the Aces players and coaches that were itinerant. The team’s business side (consisting of 35 employees) moved around nearly as much. Another advantage of having the entire organization in the same building is the basketball and business sides bumping into each other regularly.

“In addition to spending a lot of time here, it’s really where their culture is built,” said Chung. “The alignment of their focus [and] mentality, it’s all going to happen here.”

Bret McCormick can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bretjust1T.

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