Future Home of the Sixers: Part 1 - Plan in Motion, Foundation in Place
Do you remember Casper Ware? If not, no need to beat yourself up. The point guard had only a brief stint with the 76ers – it lasted nine games - during the 2013-2014 season. Beyond that, he also surfaced on the team’s two summer league rosters the next year.
If Ware’s name, however, does ring a bell, perhaps it’s because you admired his determination, at all of 5’10” tall. Or, maybe you’re able to recall the energy he brought to the floor, even in limited playing time. There was, after all, that one appearance with the Sixers when he snapped off 10 points in less than 14 minutes.
Given Sam Hinkie’s attention to detail, it’s unlikely he forgot about either of those two attributes that Ware displayed in his time with the organization. What the Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations and General Manager seemed to remember most about Ware, though, was a story the NBA hopeful told Hinkie during a pre-draft interview in 2012. The conversation left such a lasting impression on Hinkie that he referenced it recently while leading a small, private tour through the site where the future home of the Sixers is being built.
The story went as follows:
“Casper Ware said when he was playing at Long Beach State, he would go home to visit his family. He has a really big family, a lot of brothers and sisters in California. He says when he goes to visit his family, it’s always really hard to leave. He says, ‘Every time I get up to leave, I’ve got to hug everybody, and everybody has something else to say. And I get hung up playing with my nieces and nephews, and I just can’t get out the door because they’re so many good things happening.’ He said, ‘It’s hard to get out of my house.’”
“That is part of what we’re trying to do with this facility—to make it where there are so many good things happening, that it will be hard to get out of our house.”
After Hinkie’s near 45-minute tour, it was clear that there will indeed be “many good things” about the Sixers’ forthcoming training complex, which has been under construction for more than a year. Over the next week, Sixers.com will release a multi-part series of stories detailing the latest developments related to this landmark project, set for completion in the fall.
"How do you build something that’s not just the best today, but could be the best for a long period of time?”
On a mid-January afternoon, the work zone on the corner of Delaware Avenue and Harbor Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey bustled and churned with activity. The task at hand is the “Future Home of the Philadelphia 76ers,” which red, white, and blue banners with the Sixers basketball logo clearly identify. But the signage wasn’t necessary to see that a substantial construction endeavor is now well underway. Distinct, can’t-miss structures are taking shape. Concrete has been poured. Iron beams are now fixed into the ground. Walls of buildings have sprouted up as well. Roofs are close to the point of being enclosed.
While tangible evidence of the Sixers’ new facility has only started to emerge within the last year, visions for this initiative have been in the works for nearly two decades. It was only after co-managing owners Josh Harris, David Blitzer, and the Sixers’ ownership group assumed control of the organization in October of 2012 did the franchise rooting itself in an exclusive, stand-alone, unified, owned-and-operated destination become a distinct possibility.
The wheels for creating such a place were then further put in motion upon the hiring of Sam Hinkie in May 2013, and Chief Executive Officer Scott O’Neil two months later. The result of their collaborative efforts was the formation of a meticulously well-researched and well-thought out plan that called for the raising of two buildings set on one main campus. One of these buildings, currently being referred to as the “training complex,” will be devoted strictly to the Sixers’ extensive basketball operations department. The second of the two buildings, for now tabbed the “front office headquarters,” will house the Sixers’ remaining employees, including a staff of over one hundred account executives, which represents the NBA’s largest sales team.
“A lot of folks in our front office went and visited, and our [coaching] staff, around the world,” Hinkie told Sixers.com following the tour he led through the Sixers’ basketball-only training complex with both Sixers.com and USA Today. “I did the same from dozens of facilities and a handful of different sports, and other kinds of workplaces, so you could see what those sort of office environments were like to try to get ideas.”
Venues that Hinkie specifically mentioned studying were the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Manchester United Football Club’s Aon Training Complex in the United Kingdom, the Ajax Youth [Football] Academy in Amsterdam, and the Australian Institute of Sport.
Sixers executives also checked out Bloomberg’s business headquarters in Manhattan, and many Silicon Valley tech firms.
“We’ve done what everyone else has tried to do, which is bring best in class, not only now, but what we can imagine in the future, to here,” said Hinkie. “That’s the goal. How do you build something that’s not just the best today, but could be the best for a long period of time?”
The Sixers are confident that with a forward-thinking, yet careful, purposeful design, their new training complex will not only be a cutting edge facility in the present, but one that has the capability to remain ahead of the times.
“We’re all in it together”
The Sixers’ training complex, which, again, has been specifically designed to cater to the activities and needs of the basketball operations department, will stand two stories tall, and cover approximately 59,000 square feet. Many of the building’s features will be confined to the ground floor.
Perhaps the most obvious and important function of the training complex is that it will serve as the Sixers’ primary practice location. In terms of playing space, there will be enough room to fit two full-sized regulation basketball courts, six three-point shooting baskets, and four extra free throw baskets. The first floor will also house workspaces for members of the basketball operations and coaching staffs.
Important to Hinkie, though, is that everyone, regardless of rank, file, or department, interacts freely. He said, “There’s no separation. It’s not like front office upstairs, and coaching downstairs. We’re all in it together.”
There were two guiding principles the Sixers passed along to Jacobs Global Buildings Design, the architectural firm overseeing the development of the training complex.
Hinkie said the first of these principles was, “How do we bring down the walls, literally and figuratively, to remove the walls between departments and areas in an effort to have us innovate and collaborate better than we otherwise might.”
“And then the second one is, how do we have hard work spill over? How do we encourage hard work, in hopes that it might grow—and grow exponentially? How does that encourage others to show their example?”
To that end, Hinkie and the Sixers put considerable thought into the training center’s player traffic flow. Upon entering the complex, players, should they begin to walk directly to the practice courts, will find themselves on a path that immediately passes the space where Hinkie and Brett Brown have their offices. From there, and still before hardwood is reached, the path will guide players through areas designated for medical treatment and sports performance, each placed to be in order of what a player needs, step by step.
Hinkie envisioned, “The goal is fast-forward 15 years, and if we’re lucky enough to have a Tim Duncan, and a Tim Duncan comes in on a summer day to lift, the hope is that while he’s lifting, he can see his teammates playing two-on-two. And while they come in and play two-on-two, they see him lifting and might encourage one another in the same sense. Or, there’s three of them, and you need one more for two-on-two, and you didn’t think you were going to come in and get up shots that day. But there you are. And the next thing you know you’ve joined in the game. You’re caught up in the competition.”
Hinkie continued, “It’s a sense of how hard everybody else is working on their game, on prehab, rehab, film, anything. You’re in the pool, you’re in treatment, you’re just shooting free throws. You’re out training in a real way, going through an aggressive workout that everybody can see. Not just you, it’s everybody that can see it. Coaches, performance staff, the whole building at some level can see it.“
Hinkie, much like Brown, is a believer in the notion that greater effort will yield greater gains.
“The goal is to encourage you to work at your craft and spend time with your teammates and colleagues” Hinkie said. “For a player, being in our building for three hours beats two hours, four hours beats three, and five hours beats four. Let’s see where that goes over time.”
As much the Sixers’ new training complex has been designed to promote hard work, it will also provide plenty of perks for players. That subject will be covered in depth in the next installment of this multi-part Sixers.com series, set to be published in the coming days.