Sixers consider building practice center in Camden

Posted: May 30, 2014

The 76ers are eyeing Camden's waterfront to build a state-of-the-art practice facility and offices to serve as their administrative hub, sources say.

The team has rented space to practice in the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in West Philadelphia since 1999 but has been looking for a site to build its own facility. The team would continue to play games at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.

Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil did not comment on the potential move and said in an e-mailed statement, "We are continuing to do our due diligence regarding this project and are looking at a number of sites for our training center, which includes several locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania."

The possible move to Camden comes after plans to construct a training center at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where the team has office space, fell through in April, leaving the organization to look for other locations.

The Navy Yard plan called for a 55,000-square-foot facility to include two basketball courts, additional training spaces, locker rooms, a player lounge, broadcast center, and other services to open in June 2015. Sports Business Journal estimated the cost of the building at $20 million to $25 million. It's unclear whether the same schematics are being considered for Camden.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Nutter's office declined to comment ahead of any official announcements.

But multiple sources, including two within the Sixers organization and four Camden city officials, said the deal in Camden could be close. The development proposal was originally slated to appear on the May agenda of the state Economic Development Authority, which oversees many Camden development projects and real estate transactions. It was removed by the Sixers, who said they needed to go back to the league for approvals, a city source who was not authorized to speak on the matter said.

"My understanding is . . . all the financing is together, and if the Sixers are able to rectify whatever issues they have with the league, it will be on the . . . agenda in June," the source said.

The source said the site being considered is adjacent to Campbell's Field.

The Economic Development Authority meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 10 at Camden's Waterfront Technology Center.

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), who sponsored the Economic Opportunity Act that established increased tax incentives for businesses that settle in Camden, also declined to comment on the possibility of a Camden training center, but he said many businesses had expressed interest in the city because of the tax breaks.

"The Economic Opportunity Act is providing some great incentives for companies to relocate and we'd welcome all those," said Norcross, who is running for U.S. Congress in the First District. "Literally, we have people knocking on the door and the mayor has heard it and we have, too, so it wouldn't surprise me if many others wouldn't be looking. I hope to have many announcements in coming months."

If the Sixers move to Camden, they would join the Flyers, who practice in Voorhees, as the second Philadelphia sports team to practice on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.

Coach Brett Brown said in April a new practice facility was crucial for attracting potential free agents. He said the team, which does not have 24/7 access to the facility at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, was the last in the NBA not to have its own facility. Brown has said the college center is accommodating but the equipment and office spaces are outdated and lacking for the team's purposes.

Robert Corrales, spokesman for Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd, said in an e-mailed statement, "It is our policy not to comment or speculate on any potential projects until they are formalized."

In the early 1990s, the Flyers and Sixers, in search of a location for a new arena, looked into moving their entire organizations to the Camden waterfront but then-Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey intervened to keep both in Philadelphia, prompting the city to build a second arena, now the Wells Fargo Center, to complement the Spectrum. Some speculated then-Sixers owner Harold Katz had only threatened the move to gain leverage with the city.


jterruso@phillynews.com

856-779-3876 @juliaterruso

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