Sixers announce plans to build practice site in Camden

Posted: June 08, 2014

THE 76ERS are moving to New Jersey.

But relax, Philadelphia fans, it's only for practice. Practice, man. Practice.

After months of speculation of where the team would build its much-anticipated facility, CEO Scott O'Neil released a statement yesterday saying that the organization has "officially filed an application for a site along the New Jersey waterfront in Camden. We understand the New Jersey Economic Development Authority will be voting on an incentive for a possible facility on the waterfront at their upcoming meeting."

The new site, according to a source, will be between the Camden's Adventure Aquarium and the Susquehanna Bank Center.

Since 1999, the team has rented space at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, which lacks the high-end training facilities the team is looking for. An NBA source said the new facility, which is predicted to be done by the first half of 2016, will be over 100,000 square feet and include "state-of-the-art everything."

For fans worried that majority owner Josh Harris, who also owns the NHL's New Jersey Devils, is looking to move the Sixers out of state permanently, that doesn't seem likely. The Sixers are on the hook to play in the Wells Fargo Center until 2029 and if a franchise would want to switch cities, it would have to be approved by the NBA's Board of Governors, which is highly unlikely.

Still, Philadelphia can't be all that happy the Sixers are going across the Delaware River to build what the source called "the Taj Majal of practice facilities."

"Certainly, we like to keep all of our folks here in the city as much as possible, but if they have made that private decision [to go to Camden], certainly, we will be disappointed," Mayor Nutter said. "But I know there were very competitive offers made by Comcast-Spectacor. We, on the city side, showed them about six different sites and, I think, zeroed in on two in particular, and those offers were particularly aggressive and positive, as well."

It originally was thought the team would build a facility at the Navy Yard, but the Daily News learned in April that those plans had been scratched, and so the new search began.

One source said that the organization, led by general manager Sam Hinkie, coach Brett Brown and O'Neil toured other practice sites around the NBA, in particular the beautiful facilities of the San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Brown, of course, was a longtime assistant of the Spurs and has talked glowingly of how their enormous practice site played a big part in their becoming one of the premier organizations in the league.

"This is going to be the premier practice facility in the league," the source said of the Sixers' site. "There are still other steps to go through to get it finalized, but it appears as if there should be nothing to hold up the process now. This has a lot of steam right now, and there really shouldn't be any hiccups."

This is another step in what is a total rebuilding project. The Sixers won 19 games this season, ensuring a high pick in this month's draft. They'll have their own pick at No. 3 and another at 10, gotten in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans on draft night last year. The Sixers also own five second-round draft picks this year and have plenty of money under the salary cap with which to lure free agents. A new practice facility, especially one that apparently will be overwhelming, will go a long way in helping the team land high-end free agents in the future.

Daily News staff writer Jenny DeHuff contributed to this report.


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