By Dan Gelston
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The dazzling rookie with the longest-lasting impact for the Philadelphia 76ers this season might not be Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid or Dario Saric: It could be the 125,000-square foot complex the Sixers expect to set the standard in the NBA.
Yes, perhaps it’s fitting for a franchise that was once home to Allen Iverson — the Sixers are indeed talking about practice.
Philadelphia is set to open their practice facility this week in Camden, New Jersey, complete with two regulation-size basketball courts, a 2,800-square-foot locker room, corporate sponsorship and a chef plucked from one of Philly’s top restaurants.
“It’s a place where players will come and spend time and make it feel like home,” CEO Scott O’Neil said.
It’s not just the current crop of players the Sixers want to keep happy. The Sixers believe the state-of-the art equipment and sports science stations, among other amenities, could help lure free agents who might need a final incentive to sign with the worst team in the NBA.
“It’s the biggest and best that’s ever been built,” O’Neil said.
The Sixers get the keys to the new digs at 4 p.m. Thursday. Coach Brett Brown and his players could start trickling in Friday around the time of the official ribbon cutting.
Even with all the resources available, the Sixers will hold training camp in Stockton University in Galloway Township, New Jersey for the third straight year.
New Jersey approved $82 million in tax breaks over 10 years to move the 76ers’ headquarters out of Philadelphia.
The site is on the Camden waterfront on a plot of land between the Camden Aquarium and the Susquehanna Bank Center. Philadelphia was the only NBA team without its own practice facility. For about 16 years, they had been renting a single court at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The Sixers front office is based at the Navy Yard, just a few miles away from the Philadelphia sports complex that’s home to the four major professional teams. The business offices open January in New Jersey, putting the entire organization under one roof in a city long known as perhaps the most dangerous in America.
The kitchen will operate under the leadership of chef JaeHee Cho, a veteran of Philadelphia staples Parc and Serpico. Perhaps fittingly for the Sixers’ numbers-crunching front office, Cho also was a statistics crew manager during his time at Haverford College.
The Sixers announced a slew of corporate sponsors Monday, with Toyota, NovaCare Rehabilitation and Virtua all signed on to stamp their logo on various parts of the complex. There’s even a Gatorade Fuel Bar and an innovation lab sponsored by Kimball designed to aid local startup companies. Toyota branding will not only be displayed on pole pads and apron on both courts in the complex, it’s the first sponsor to have apron court branding at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.
But the 76ers are keeping the team name on the building.
The Sixers will blast “Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex” on the basketball operations side and have eschewed corporate sponsorship — and a potential hefty big-dollar deal — to build the brand. The Sixers planned for a 4,000-square-foot sign with letters up to nine feet high on the three-story office building and a 1,000-square-foot sign on the practice building.
“We’d rather keep the name,” O’Neil said.
The Sixers hope to have 250 employees under the Camden umbrella by January and said the doors will occasionally open to season-ticket holders, corporate sponsors and for select community events throughout the year.
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