Tony Ressler was adamant about the state of the Hawks’ practice facility. It was, according to the franchise’s principal owner, simply unacceptable.
That is about to change.
The Hawks and Emory Healthcare announced plans Tuesday to partner on a long-awaited sports medicine center and training facility at a news conference at Philips Arena. The 90,000-square-foot complex will cost $50-plus million, according to a person familiar with the situation, and be privately funded. It will be located on Executive Park Drive in Brookhaven. Plans for the facility are complete and the groundbreaking is expected in mid-May to be ready for the 2017-18 NBA season.
“I would say from the first day I toured our practice facility, I felt and still feel, that the Atlanta Hawks, were and still are, at a professional disadvantage facilities-wise,” Ressler said after the announcement. “My view was that was job No. 1 was to change that. That is what this announcement is all about. That was absolutely our first and highest objective. The NBA is tough enough having a good coach, good players, a good staff. It’s a competitive, competitive world, as you well know. Having a professional disadvantage, which I thought our practice facilities were, that’s not an organization I want to be a part of.”
The Hawks’ currently practice facility is part of Philips Arena and has long been considered substandard. The team spent several million dollars before this season to upgrade the weight-room and locker-room areas. The entire basketball operations staff will move to the new complex. The arena space now occupied by the staff will be open for other developments.
Emory will have the naming rights to the facility and will become the official sports-medicine provider for the Hawks. Emory already is the provider for the Falcons and the Dream. The facility will have 30,000 square feet dedicated to Emory, and its entire sports-medicine division will be located there. A long list of amenities that the Hawks and others will have access to in addition to the medical staff include a 3D motion capture, force plates to measure joint stress and on-site blood and sweat testing and analysis for nutritional deficits to aid in individual health and recovery plans. There will also be a recovery area with cryotherapy, sensory-deprivation tanks and in-ground hydrotherapy.
“We expect that now that list (of professional sports teams) is going to grow,” said Dr. Scott Boden, the director of The Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center and chief medical officer of The Emory University Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital. “We think this new facility is really going to position us to be able to offer to professional teams something different than the traditional model of a private orthopedic group no having integrated resources.”
Emory doctors will see their patients at the facility.
Another feature that will make the facility unique is that it will also be home to P3, a leader in applied sports science located in Santa Barbara, Calif., and frequented by many professional athletes, including several Hawks players. P3 has pioneered the use of advanced sports-science technologies and front-edge applications for athletes. Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder are some of the Hawks who have worked out at P3, which is expanding outside California for the first time. The Hawks send all their rookies and new players to P3 for testing and development. That process will get a whole lot easier.
The Hawks believe the training facility will help recruit and retain top NBA talent. It also will play a pivotal role in the team’s dedication to player development.
“There is probably nobody more excited in this room that myself and I think I can speak for our players in saying the same thing,” president of basketball operations and coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Collectively, we couldn’t be more excited about this announcement and this partnership and the vision that is being carried out. …
“Player development is at the core of what we do on a daily basis. Having a practice facility that will allow us to maximize our efforts in growing and developing our players is critical in today’s NBA. We’ve all seen the fruits of our labor in player development, and I think this is going to make it even better, more productive, more efficient.”
Hawks players were told of the new facility following practice Monday.
The architecture-engineering firm HOK was hired to design the facility. HOK recently designed the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Atlanta-based construction firm H.J. Russell and Company was hired as the project-management team.
“We got better as an organization,” CEO Steve Koonin said. “We will attract and retain our great talent for our team and for our city.”
NBA teams joining medical facilities for practice and training complexes has become a trend in the league. The Timberwolves (Mayo Clinic), Cavaliers (Cleveland Clinic) and Bulls (Advocate Center) all recently opened such complexes.
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