When the news broke in October that the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA were purchased by MGM Resorts International and moved to Las Vegas, a few things popped into my head: a) that stinks for fans in San Antonio, b) how interesting that a gaming corporation acquired a professional sports team, c) Las Vegas really has some sports momentum right now, and d) they are TOTALLY going to flub the team’s name, if it is renamed.
To my shock and delight, though, I was proven wrong on that last point! MGM Resorts International recently announced that the new name of its WNBA team will be the “Aces.” How about that? A simple, catchy, gambling-related name for a Las Vegas sports team! And if someone doesn’t like the gambling connotations of the name, just use an excellent alternate definition of Aces, like “great” or “people who are really good at sports!” It works for everyone!
“Selecting a new name is an important and symbolic step,” said Las Vegas Aces President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Bill Laimbeer. “Las Vegas has enthusiastically embraced us, and we’re incredibly excited for this opportunity. We have a strong roster driven to succeed, which makes this name an ideal choice. ‘Las Vegas Aces’ is a nod to the excellence, confidence and competitive spirit of our new hometown.”
Excellence, yeah, when you go with one of my alternate definitions of Aces. Confidence, I guess, if you stretch it a bit. Competitive spirit? No. It’s a nod to poker and blackjack. But hey, it’s a great name, so let’s stop arguing.
As mentioned, that the league owners approved of the sale of the Stars to MGM and the subsequent move to Las Vegas is significant, as professional sports leagues in the U.S. have seemingly forever been against sports betting, or at least have tried to make the public think they are. Now, the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA were already owned by Mohegan Sun, so there is certainly precedent in the WNBA, but the sale and move is significant nonetheless. There has been a migration to Las Vegas in the past year: the NHL’s Golden Knights are in their first year, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders have already announced they are moving to Las Vegas and will be there by 2020, the Las Vegas Lights FC of the United Soccer League will begin play in 2018, and now the Las Vegas Aces are in “Sin City.”
This is the second relocation for the franchise. It began as the Utah Starzz, one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, owned by the NBA. After the 2002 season, the NBA sold all of the teams and the Starzz moved to San Antonio, to be renamed the Silver Stars (the “Silver” was eventually dropped). Good seasons have been few and far between for the franchise, which has finished with the worst record in the WNBA the past three seasons.