It will take some time before the Philadelphia 76ers reign as kings of the NBA, but construction of their castle has already been completed. On Friday, Sept. 23, the Sixers unveiled a palatial new training complex with a festive and highly anticipated ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Camden Waterfront. The crown jewel of the 125,000-square-foot campus off of Delaware Avenue is a 66,230-square-foot basketball facility with amenities suited for basketball royalty.
“With the Philadelphia 76ers training complex, one thing was really clear,” said Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil. “We wanted to build the biggest and best training facility in the history of the world.”
The basketball building at the new training complex features two full-sized courts, a 16-stall locker room, a hydrotherapy room with multiple pools and tubs, a strength and conditioning area, a luxurious players’ lounge complete with ping-pong tables and big-screen TVs, and a gourmet restaurant open only to players and basketball operations employees. The second building on the campus will house the team’s business offices. Previously, the Sixers’ practice court and offices were located at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“In order for a team to succeed, you need to have a place where players feel comfortable, players have access to the courts at any time, players have access to other resources including fitness facilities and treatment facilities,” said Bryan Colangelo, president of basketball operations for the 76ers. “They also need the people that can carry those activities out.”
An estimated 250 employees will work at the state-of-the-art complex, which was originally announced in June 2014. Ground-breaking took place in January 2015, but the Sixers did plenty of homework first to ensure the complex would be unrivaled in both luxury and functionality.
“The reality is that it took a significant amount of time to get this right,” said David Blitzer, the team’s partial owner. “What we wanted to do was, when you go on a project of this scale and magnitude, you want to make sure that you spend the appropriate amount of time planning, for everything from locations to the changes in technology that are occurring, so that we can deliver to our staff, to our players, to our coaches what is clearly going to be the finest facility within the NBA.”
Sixers executives looked at other world-renowned training complexes and borrowed their favorite elements from multiple facilities, tailoring them to meet the needs of a basketball team.
“We had the ability to go around the world and look at the Australian Institute of Sport, look at what happens in Manchester United, Real Madrid, and study domestically what the NHL does, NFL, Major League Baseball, existing NBA practice facilities, and to be able to take the best of all of that and form a facility that we think reflects how we see the sport,” 76ers coach Brett Brown explained.
By incorporating the best-of-the-best in modern athletic training and comfort, the Sixers now have one of the most desirable facilities in the NBA, if not all of professional sports.
“In the business today, there’s so many things that you’re competing with, with other franchises, and it’s become a little bit of an arms race, if you will, with respect to what player amenities you have,” Colangelo said. “How you travel, what the practice facility is, what kind of creature comforts you give them. We’re taking this to an entirely new level in terms of the healthy performance and nutrition aspect of things. We’re really trying to drive excellence. We’re trying to create a culture of not only excellence, but of maximum performance, and trying to give them as many things that can help enhance that and get us there quicker.”
“It’s stylish, it’s got a vibe,” added Josh Harris, managing owner of the Sixers. “It looks good. People want to be here. Part of building a winning team is people enjoying themselves and wanting to come and play. Attracting stars. It’s gonna help, rolling this out. We’ve now jumped everyone and gone from maybe one of the toughest places to play and practice and live to probably the best in the NBA.”
In addition to top-notch amenities for players and staff, considerable thought also went into the location of the training complex. There were initial rumblings about a new facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, but the Sixers ultimately opted to put roots down in redeveloping Camden. Of course, finances played a big role in that decision: the New Jersey Economic Development Authority granted the team $82 million in tax credits over 10 years to build the training complex there.
Money aside, the Sixers say they are proud to play a part in the revival of Camden. It’s a city the team is familiar with due to years of 76ers youth and community programs in the area, but actually establishing brick-and-mortar ties to Camden is an even greater sign of commitment to the ongoing revitalization.
“We spent 20 years doing programs in and around Camden,” O’Neil said. “It’s a city on the rise and there’s a tremendous opportunity for us to be a catalyst for change in that community, and we hope to play that role.”
Just as the city of Camden is in the midst of a long-term rebound, the Sixers are also in the middle of a lengthy rebuilding process. The team has struggled in recent years as management complacently trudged through losing seasons in order to stockpile draft picks. However, there was a genuine buzz surrounding the Sixers this summer, with a number of big-name players now ready to enter the fold. After a few disastrous years, it seems as if the 76ers are finally getting ready to return to playoff contention, so it’s only fitting they will have a pristine new practice center to use as they embark on the upswing of the rebuild.
“It’s a new day for us,” Harris said. “The best facility in the NBA—our facility. A place where we’ve got the best medical facilities, the best nutrition, and a great place for the guys to hang out, and our coaches and our staff. At the same time, we’re looking at Dario Šaric and Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and all of our other players and a lot of new faces, but a lot of new talent. A lot more talent than we’ve had in the last few years.”
The team debuted that talent during the first full practice at the new Camden training center on October 2. It was a session full of excitement and optimism—something the Sixers hope becomes a regular occurrence in Camden.
“Our goal is to build a team that can compete for a championship here over multiple seasons,” O’Neil said. “Part of that is having a home where we can make sure that we develop and come together, and this is that home.”