Laimbeer: WNBA nixed first-class trip for All-Stars

Las Vegas Aces coach and president Bill Laimbeer said he had three goals in having Las Vegas host the All-Star Game. He met two of them: getting the All-Stars suites in the hotel instead of standard rooms and getting each player four tickets to the game instead of the usual two.

The one thing he couldn't accomplish was getting the players first-class plane tickets to and from the game.

"I put $20,000 in our budget to fly the players first class, and the league said you couldn't do that," he told The Associated Press. "The league refused to let us do that. I made a complaint at the board of governors meeting about that specific issue. They are our best assets, they are our All-Stars; treat them with respect. I apologized to them that I couldn't get that done."

The league said it worked with Las Vegas but couldn't do everything Laimbeer wanted.

"MGM Resorts and the Aces were highly engaged throughout the yearlong planning for what became a truly memorable All-Star Weekend, including bringing to the table enhancements to the player experience. While we worked together on many of those elements, there were others that we determined might create an unfair advantage for the team moving forward," WNBA chief operating officer Christy Hedgpeth said. "WNBA players are world-class athletes, and ultimately, we are committed to working with them and our other stakeholders to develop an economic model that can support additional improvements to the player experience throughout the year, including the All-Star Game."

The biggest change Laimbeer said he would make to the All-Star Game would be the time of the contest.

"Everything was positive except one issue: The game started at 12:30 p.m. That was the one complaint that everyone had," he said. "They would have liked to see it start at 5 o'clock. It's the All-Star Game. You want to get the best time slot, as best as you possibly can. That's a show that hasn't been on in a long time in the WNBA. I don't know what the ratings are going to be. I think if it was in a prime-time situation, it would be better."

According to Sports Business Daily, the All-Star Game drew a 0.5 overnight rating, down from a 0.6 in 2018 and equal to 2017's rating.

On the whole, coaches, players and WNBA executives were thrilled with the show that Las Vegas put on for the All-Star Game last weekend.

From an entertaining game to first-class entertainment, the Nevada city got rave reviews.

"It was electric. It was positive. And I think we should have it here every year," All-Star captain and Aces player A'ja Wilson said. "I don't think I have a say in it, but just the feel of it. Everyone kind of was here. You have players that were not even in competition at all here to support their teammates. That's what it's all about. We're all coming together and watching a game and playing a game that we love, and I just had so much fun."

There were dozens of players not involved in the All-Star Game in attendance in Las Vegas. Laimbeer said the team reached out to players to come to Vegas to help market All-Star Weekend. The Aces offered free hotel rooms to players who did come in exchange for their appearance at a fan fest and parties.

"Everything has just kind of been bigger and grander," said team captain Elena Delle Donne. "Even right when you land, you're seeing the marketing behind it. It's why the Aces have been so successful these last two years."

While there most likely won't be an All-Star Game next year because of the Olympics, Las Vegas has put itself in a good position to host the event in the future.