Las Vegas Aces Honor Former Alumni as part of the WNBA 25th anniversary season
New Aces president Nikki Fargas talks about the franchise celebrating Utah and San Antonio alumni
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The Las Vegas Aces are honoring their former alumni as the WNBA celebrates its 25th season of the league. They have brought back former players who played for the Utah Starzz (1997-2002) and the San Antonio Stars (2003-2017) to recognize and celebrate their achievements with the franchise.
To celebrate and honor the alumni is no easy feat. Her Hoop Stats recently got the opportunity to talk to new Aces president Nikki Fargas. She recently came into the president role after resigning from being the LSU women’s basketball head coach.
She discusses where the idea came from and how the Aces honor the alumni during game days, the logo design, and much more.
Her Hoop Stats: We have seen the Las Vegas Aces honor former alumni at home games this season. Where did this idea come from?
Nikki Fargas: The idea came through our owner, Mark Davis. You know, when you are a part of the Raiders family, you know how important family is to this. There's always been a strong commitment to the alums, who played under his father's leadership. And I personally have experience with my husband being a former Raider how important that relationship is with those who have paved the way. And so Mark's vision was to celebrate and honor the Aces alumni, those who played for Utah, or San Antonio. And he wants to do this in a very personal way.
Because he knows that these women in our league have shattered expectations, and they've stood at the forefront of advancement, inclusion, and social change. And he's extremely proud to be a part of not just as a fan, which he was before. But he has made a huge commitment to create a platform, if you will, for these players to realize that they have not been forgotten, that we do recognize the work that they’ve done, to get the league to where it is today. And there's still more work to be done.
But this was just a very generous way from what he was brought up and what he was exposed to. It is about honoring those players, it is about celebrating the sacrifices that they've made. And then it builds this relationship within these organizations, even though they may not have worn the Aces jersey, that they're still a part of the Aces family.
So we've got some unbelievable young ladies on our roster right now today. But there were so many great players before them. And so to be able to tell and allow them to tell their stories, to be able to have them in the arena, talking to our season ticket holders, to be able to put them on social media and in and use that channel to say who they are and what they've meant to our game.
HHS: So what is a typical game day like for an Aces alumni who are going to be honored during halftime? What is their schedule like?
Nikki: First, we arrange their travel and I’ve got an unbelievable team to help assist us to help us coordinate that. Then, they arrive at the hotel and we will greet them and we get them situated a day before. They will have a welcoming brunch where everybody will get together. We also invite our ownership group, as well as our media personality, so that they all have a chance to talk and gather some information about them. It’s also an opportunity for the former alumni to get a chance to talk to each other and catch up.
If it’s a night game, we’ll meet a couple of hours beforehand. The alumni stay at Mandalay Bay. Michelob ULTRA Arena is within walking distance of the hotel. So, they get to take and in and soak [in] all of what Las Vegas has to offer from casinos to restaurants. When they arrive at the arena, we want to capture those moments when they soak in the current Aces team atmosphere, have an opportunity to have conversations with [owner Mark Davis], etc.
Because we are still in a pandemic, we make sure everything is followed through the league’s COVID protocol and make sure the current Aces players and the alumni are separated. But we still do let the Aces players know that the former alumni are here and vice versa, etc. We utilize a company to capture and video those moments for us.
We currently have a great photographer and we make sure Chris and John Maxwell who are our social media/media relations staff to document them and put it on social media across all our channels. During half-time, it’s all about the alumni. We usher them to the stage where we give them a microphone and let them talk. We then have a question and answer session with the fans so they can get to know them at a more intimate level because they are addressing the entire arena at halftime. All of this gives us the chance to say that we have not forgotten you and to give our thanks and to celebrate with you.
HHS: So, who are the next alumni who are going to come? For example, are you going to honor former San Antonio Stars players and current NBA assistant coach Becky Hammon and current head coach of the Dallas Wings Vickie Johnson together?
Nikki: We are in talks with them. And if it works, we hope it works with their schedule. Those are two great players. I think that when you celebrate the alumni, those two are instrumental in our game today. We’ve had Shyra Ely-Gash, Jennifer Azzi, Camille Little, Natalie Williams, Vicki Baugh, Adrian Williams-Strong, Marie Ferdinand-Harris. Adrian and Vicki played in San Antonio. Marie was a rookie under Jennifer’s leadership.
As for me personally, I’ve played with some of them, coached them, or tried to recruit them. I’ve seen some of these former alumni from when they were in high school and to see them now come and take time out of their busy schedules to come and support the Aces organization is really special. We want to continue and grow our Alumni association. This is our first year of doing so. So far, I think we have succeeded in doing just that.
HHS: Who came up with that logo design? The logo currently has the San Antonio Stars logo as well as the current Aces logo. Who made that?
Nikki: I don’t want to misspeak on who designed the logo. I’m not taking any credit for it. I just know that the vision is captured of why the owner, Mark Davis is doing this. To make sure that in a personal and meaningful way that the Utah Starzz organization, the San Antonio Stars organization, that they are recognized with the Aces organization over the past 25 years, and what better way to do that is to create a logo that represents that.
I'm excited that we're going to be able to continue our communication, we're going to be able to continue our relationship with them for the next 25 years because they have been there since the beginning. It's great to have them engaged in what we're doing for the next 25 years. So to have that logo representing that, I think that's pretty special.
HHS: Has any other WNBA team come forward to talk about honoring their former alumni? And if they did, what advice would you give them?
Nikki: I’m sure something will come down the pipeline. It’s the league’s 25th silver anniversary, I’m sure something will come up. In terms of advice, it’s got to be important and it’s important to have the resources available. For something like this, it’s got to be looked at as an investment and it’s about having the right people involved to execute what you’re trying to achieve.
You have to have the commitment to recognize and celebrate these alums. I’m sure organizations were going to find it difficult to organize something really quickly because for us when we launched the initiative, it was right before the season started. We had a really quick turnaround, to be honest. It’s a credit to our staff as well as the former alumni for making sure everything went smoothly. [Owner Mark Davis] was also heavily involved in making sure our former alumni were celebrated and recognized as part of the 25th anniversary season.
HHS: Final question: Who would be on your list of the top 25 WNBA players of all time?
Nikki: Okay, let me think about this one. As you know, we have identified and featured former players on Aces home game day tickets. Wendy Palmer, who we had on the May 21 game, is one. Adrienne Goodson, Natalie Williams, Jennifer Azzi, Vickie Johnson, Becky Hammon, Ruth Riley are some of the names that come to my mind in terms of thinking of the top 25 WNBA players of all time. All of these players have been featured or will be featured on Aces home game day tickets. It’s just another way to recognize them. I’m sure there are so many more players who I have missed and who have impacted this game in such a positive way.