“It’s hard to beat almost free.”
The Sixers showed off their yet-to-be-completed New Jersey team facility to a select group of insiders on Thursday, hard hats and all. The project, slated to be completed by September 29, has been a two and a half year project that started at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and moved across the river to Camden because the Sixers — get this — are basically getting the building for free.
The Sixers are moving to Camden and are building the largest practice facility in the NBA by double the next biggest—slated to be the most expensive facility in the league by $30 million—because the state of New Jersey agreed to provide $1 in tax credits for every $1 the team spends, up to $82 million.
That makes the building free! Everyone would move to Camden if they got $82 million for free.
Alan Razak, principal with firm AthenianRazak that is tasked with building the two-building facility, explained that the Sixers will be getting more like “70 cents on the dollar” when all is said and done. The deal with the state is based on the team bringing 250 jobs to New Jersey, and keeping them here for 15 years. If the Sixers agree to that deal — 250 jobs for 15 years — the state will give them back 10 percent of the cost of the building per year for 10 years in tax credits.
Given the Sixers won’t make enough income in New Jersey to use all the tax credits, it was explained that the team will be able to sell the credits to other businesses, suggested at 90 cents on the dollar. That sale would be considered income, which would be subject to tax, thus the estimate of 70 cents on the dollar.
Still, even if all that happens and the Sixers can’t figure out a way to get all of the tax credit money for themselves, they’re basically spending $82 million — of which $45 million will be used for construction — and getting at worst $57 million back from the state of New Jersey. And the only way to get the tax credits is to spend the money.
Oh, and the kicker? The jobs don’t even have to be new jobs.
The Sixers are bringing their entire staff to this facility, a number that conveniently totals just about 250 people! So the Sixers are moving out of Philly to Camden basically for free in exchange for 250 jobs and Camden isn’t even getting any jobs.
Sixers chief revenue officer Christopher Heck said the building will help the basketball team on the court while helping the Sixers “elevate our brand” off it. “This will be the Mecca of Basketball in summertime from D.C. to New York,” Heck said, suggesting top level camps and basketball groups will want to use this new facility as well. “We will open our doors to them.”
Heck also mentioned that it doesn’t hurt having the man who runs USA Basketball work in the organziation, suggesting he expects the USA Basketball operations to move to Camden at some point in the future.
He stressed — everyone stressed — this facility will be open to the public on a very limited basis, if at all. One of the presenters said before the tour, “this place will be like a Mormon temple. Once its consecrated it will be impossible to get in.” But the best contribution the Sixers can offer to the city of Camden is that they’re “waving the flag” that it’s a good place to bring your business.
Again…virtually for free.
The first building will house all basketball operations, including the draft room and all team training facilities. The training room will feature a 30-foot lap pool and HydroWorx pool with glass walls to give trainers the ability to video record rehabilitation processes. There will also be a barber’s chair. It was in, then out, now, per Razak, it’s back in.
The locker room will be part of a 2,800 square foot space for the players. It will have a lot of TVs.
The playing surface will feature two full basketball courts and somewhere in the area of eight different shooting areas for the team to practice.
Upstairs is a full cafe and team lounge for the players. Razak quoted Sam Hinkie a lot during our tour, saying that he had wanted to create a “factory for NBA players” where they can “build them, maintain them and when they break, fix them.”
Hinkie had an open-space work area slated for the second floor, looking back to the Philly skyline, but Bryan Colangelo has nixed that idea. It will now be for the marketing staff.
Razak said the players will have their own private access to the building, which will be staffed 24/7. The team is hoping to create a facility the players want to be in. “If a player can’t sleep at 3 a.m.,” Razak suggested, “they can come here to shoot.”
There are no sleeping facilities on site, so that player would need to then drive home in the middle of the night. In Camden. At that point, noticing a few media members in his group, Razak said the area near the Camden Waterfront is incredibly safe, suggesting the Camden police ran the numbers and, “in the last six months, there have been 228 violent crimes in Rittenhouse Square area. There was one in Camden waterfront district.”
Razak said that because there really isn’t much around that area, there isn’t much in the way of crime. Given the Sixers will be showing up soon — with some expensive cars in the parking areas, for sure — Razak said the state-of-the-art security system will be tied into the Camden police.
He stressed that while the facility is huge, it won’t be super lavish. They’re creating a place where players can get better at basketball, not get free iPads, like college recruits look for. “NBA players already have 15 iPads,” Razak suggested. That estimate may be a bit high, but the point remains.
The owners will have a schmoozing suite that overlooks the courts, with each majority owner also having his own office, though nobody expects the owners to be there all that much. (Shocker.)
Razak talked about Hinkie’s involvement — he still checks in on things when he’s around — and how the building has changed now that Colangelo is in charge. The key, he said, is staying on budget and on time. “The Sixers are very dollar conscious.”
The second building will house all the business side of things for the Sixers, and it includes an enormous open air deck, presumably to party on the state of New Jersey’s dime. It also has one heckuva huge sign, so people in Philly know where the Sixers left to go.
In all, the facility is immense and will deliver on the promise of putting the Sixers on the map. In New Jersey, for that much money, they might own the map.