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Brooklyn Nets are latest NBA team to build a practice facility


Andrew Keh of the Times writes Saturday that the Nets have reached a tentative deal to move basketball operations into Brooklyn's Industry City, as NetsDaily reported in October. The Nets will take over the top floor of a waterfront building in the industrial park and raise the roof.  Keh writes that with the move, the Nets will fully embrace Brooklyn and finally leave New Jersey behind.

The project, which has yet to be officially announced by the Nets, is expected to be completed by the fall of 2015. If that happens, the Nets will leave their training center in East Rutherford, N.J., and drop the last vestige of their former incarnation.

Keh doesn't report on the cost of the facility, but NetsDaily has been told the number will be between $45 million and $50 million. Beyond practice courts and training facilities, the team will also relocate their basketball operations offices and, of course, build a Nets Store at ground level in the eight-story warehouse at 148 39th Street in Brooklyn. A little more than three miles from Barclays Center, the building offers spectacular views of Lower Manhattan.

It's the latest volley in what Wizards owner Ted Leonsis calls an "arms race" among NBA teams: who can build the most spectacular training facility.  He spoke to the Washington Post last Tuesday about plans to build one for his team who practice now in a cramped court next to the main floor at the Verizon Center. The Wizards facility is likely to cost $20 million and should be ready by 2017.

In fact, over the past 10 years, the Clippers, Cavaliers, Jazz, Thunder and Pelicans have built new facilities. New Orleans is  the latest, opening up a 50,000-square-foot, $15 million facility in October. Others are following suit. In addition to the Wizards, the Bulls announced a year ago that they plan to move from their suburban practice facility in Deerfield, Ill., into a 55,000 square foot facility next to the United Center in Chicago. Both the Warriors and Kings both plan to include practice facilities in their new downtown arenas.

"The Nets are a forward-thinking organization," Michael Phillips, chief operating officer of Jamestown and the Nets prospective landlord, told Keh. "It’s a great day for Sunset Park and the Nets."

Jamestown hopes the Nets will be the lynchpin of a surge in development at Industry Park, perhaps recreating youth oriented neighborhoods in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan or DUMBO in Brooklyn.  There are limitations to that dream, including a lack of good public transportation (although ferry service could become part of the plan.)

Why do teams build facilities? Beyond providing a centralized facility to practice and train, a training facility is another recruiting tool and status symbol. Players spend most of their time not at the arena, but at the training facility.  It doesn't always work as a recruiting --or retaining-- tool. The Cavs facility, an architectural gem built in a park-like setting, was supposed to retain LeBron James. It didn't.

Then, there's money. Many teams are selling naming rights to their facilities, as the Nets did with PNY Center in New Jersey and plan to do with the Industry City facility, say league sources. The facilities can even be profit centers.Toyota pays about $1 million annually for naming rights to the Toyota Sports Center, the training facility for the NBA Lakers and NHL Kings,  The Celtics get half that from the Sports Authority.  PNY, the thumb drive manufacturer, pays the Nets "low six figures" for naming rights to their East Rutherford facility and practice jerseys.

In fact, with the Nets' premier location overlooking New York Harbor and visible from the BQE and Lower Manhattan, the team hopes to set a record for training facility naming rights. The Nets have publicly declined to comment on either the NetsDaily or Times reports.