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Brooklyn Nets' practice facility part of "arms race" among teams for free agents


It's become the NBA's latest status symbol: an eight-figure practice facility with all the amenities a potential free agent could want.

The Nets will soon unveil their plans for a practice facility in Brooklyn's Industry City, a $45 million rehab of the top two floors of a 100-year-old industrial warehouse, complete with spectacular views of Lower Manhattan. Irina Pavlova, president of ONEXIM Sports and Mikhail Prokhorov's representative in New York, heads up the project, working with David Carlock, a member of the Barclays Center board of directors and an arena consultant.

The Nets aren't alone in believing a practice facility with a host of player amenities will make a difference in luring players to their team.

On Monday, Sports Business Journal revealed that Lakers have hired Rossetti,a Detroit-based architecture firm, to design a new 100,000 square foot practice facility and team headquarters in El Segundo, CA,. Like the Nets, the Lakers want to consolidate its basketball operations in the same location. Unlike the Nets, the Lakers facility will also house their D-League affiliate's home court.  The Lakers news follows a February announcement by the Timberwolves that they and their WNBA affiliate, the Lynx, will develop a facility, to be called Mayo Clinic Square, across the street from Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

They're the latest volleys in what Wizards owner Ted Leonsis recently called an "arms race" among NBA teams: who can build the most spectacular practice facility.  He spoke to the Washington Post 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.

His architect, Brett Fuller of AECOM, explained the rationale to the Post.. "If you’re a free agent, and you’re going to sign a contract for millions of dollars of a year, and you feel like that team is going to take care of you in all aspects of mind, body and convenience — you might choose that team," he argued. Of course, the spectacular AECOM-designed Cleveland Clinics Courts in Independence, Ohio, didn't keep LeBron James from "taking his talents to South Beach."

In fact, over the past 10 years, the Cavaliers, Clippers, Jazz, Thunder and Pelicans have all built new facilities, about half suburban, half urban. New Orleans is the latest to open, a 50,000-square-foot, $15 million facility that was unveiled in October. Others are following suit. In addition to the Nets, Lakers and Wizards,  the Bulls unveiled plans for a move from their suburban practice facility in Deerfield, Ill., into a 65,000 square foot facility, called the Advocate Center, next to the United Center in Chicago. Both Warriors and Kings plan to include practice facilities in their new downtown arenas.

Not everyone's plans are working out. A 76ers plan to locate a practice facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard fell through last month, leaving management to frantically search for new site. The Sixers currently practice at the at an outdated gym at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

As reported, the Nets will raise the roof on Building 19 at Industry City by 15 to 20 feet and remake the facade. There will be two practice courts, a players lounge, training center and offices for Billy King, Jason Kidd, etc. The owners of Industry City, who'll update the building, hope to make the Nets facility an anchor for a new, hip neighborhood like Manhattan's Meatpacking District or Brooklyn's Dumbo. There are tentative plans for a Nets Store on the bottom floor.  It will replace the PNY Center in East Rutherford where the Nets have trained for a decade and a half.  The plan is to have it ready by the 2015-16 season.

Don't be surprised if the Nets find a naming rights sponsor for the facility to help make it financially self-sustaining. No word on who might get the nod, but note that hospital and health companies have sponsored a number of the NBA practice facilities. Don't be surprised either if the Nets note their facility is inside New York city limits, while the Knicks train in Westchester County.