Sylvia Crawley Spann via AP
Sunday 22 August 2021 | 2 a.m
Mark Davis has already left his mark on the Las Vegas Aces franchise during his first year as the team owner, connecting his past to the present.
He saw firsthand how much his father, Al Davis, cared about former Raiders players, starting the first NFL alumni program, which has grown over the years.
Mark Davis wanted to bring a similar program to the Aces and once again invited franchise alumni from his days to Utah and San Antonio.
“I wanted to take this alumni initiative that the Raiders built that I feel so strong for and bring it to the Aces as well,” Davis said in an interview with the Raiders facility. “This season would be the 25th anniversary of the WNBA and the Aces franchise. They were an original WNBA franchise starting in Utah as Starzz and going to San Antonio before moving to Las Vegas as Ace. I intended to go back 25 years and let these women know that we remember them.
Nikki Fargas, Aces’ new president, has been tasked with making this initiative work. She had seen him with the Raiders – her husband, Justin Fargas, played for them.
“When Mark told me I wanted to create that same family feeling with Aces, I knew exactly what he meant,” she said. “I saw how they treat their old players. We want this to be the standard of what it should look like when you’re part of the Aces family. If you’ve played five minutes or five years in a Utah or San Antonio uniform, you’re part of the Ace family. “
One of those former players was Sylvia Crawley Spann, who played a season in San Antonio in 2003. She received a text from Fargas in May inviting her with a guest to Las Vegas for the weekend to celebrate her season. with the franchise.
At first, Crawley Spann thought the invitation was a joke since she had only spent one season with the franchise. Soon she realized that was not the case. She went to Nevada for the weekend with her then-fiancé. The two had talked about running away to Las Vegas. They got married the day after their arrival.
“I think Mark is setting a precedent. He understands. How to run an organization and how to empower your employees and former employees, ”said Crawley Spann. “He was not the owner of my specific team, but he sees us as part of the lineage.”
Crawley Spann said Fargas essentially arranged the wedding in a matter of hours. The other former players on the trip were part of the wedding party, and dinner with Davis turned into a wedding reception.
“Our wedding gift from the Aces is that our anniversary will forever be in Vegas on Memorial Day weekend,” Crawley Spann said. “We have an open invitation to always come back there. I can’t say enough about my experience, a moment that I will never, ever forget.
Jennifer Azzi came to Las Vegas on a different weekend and also left impressed.
“Mark set the standard for what a WNBA team should look like,” she said. “Players, regardless of their salary, want to feel connected, want to feel important and be part of something bigger than them. He’s already done it in his first year.
So far about 40 alums have come to Las Vegas for a weekend. They go out to dinner so he can get to know them and “let them know that we appreciate and understand the sacrifices they made to help build this league.”
COVID-19 protocols have kept former players from spending a lot of time with the current squad. But Fargas and Davis suspect that will change once the pandemic is behind.
“We see it becoming something much bigger,” Fargas said.
Davis sees a bright future for Aces on and off the pitch. He plans to build a state-of-the-art training center across from where the Raiders train.
It designates a vacant lot beyond a window.
“We are going to give them a home,” he said. “It meant training facilities, offices, a training room, a locker room, whatever would make it a world class organization.”
This building will also house the Al Davis-Eddie Robinson Leadership Academy.
“When I meet the alumni and talk about the Aces building, the women are so excited about the two,” Davis said. “It will be something special here.”