Pacers practice facility to break ground in 90 days, open in 2017

The Indiana Pacers are getting a new practice facility, and that’s a really big deal.

The facility will have two basketball courts, a massive weight room, and plenty of office space.

The facility will have two basketball courts, a massive weight room, and plenty of office space.

On Wednesday, Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) presented their plans to build a five-story, 130,000 square-foot facility just east of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The facility, which will be named the St. Vincent Center, will replace a one-level elevated employee parking lot that takes up the pie-shaped space.

The estimated cost is $50 million, and taxpayers won’t contribute a dime as the whole thing will be privately financed.

So, what all will fill the space?

Two basketball courts, a state-of-the-art weight room four times the size of the one in the Pacers locker room, a training room courtside so the team’s medical staff can efficiently support the team, and room for expansion to suit the team’s needs.

“We’ve talked a long time about how we’re outgrowing (Bankers Life Fieldhouse) from a practice standpoint, having two teams, having all the other things we do here,” said PS&E President and COO Rick Fuson, who has worked in the organization for 32 years.

[PHOTOS: Renderings of the St. Vincent Center]

In addition to the basketball staff moving entirely to the new building, so, too, will most other employees — the primary exception being those associated with facilities. (Currently, team executives are in one part and other key basketball personnel like scouts, analytics, player relations, and administrative assistants are down the hall.

This will enable the organization to repurpose and make even more updates to the First Financial Bank Level at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.(Many upgrades have been made over the last year, including new carpet, TVs, and a re-designed marketing office.)

“We don’t have a specific plan,” Fuson said of the current offices inside the Fieldhouse. “We’ll be working on that over the next 18 months.”

The land where the Pacers will build a five-story practice facility, which is currently an employee parking lot.

The land where the Pacers will build a five-story practice facility, which is currently an employee parking lot.

Pacers basketball staffers, as you can imagine, are ecstatic that this will indeed be happening — and that they’ll be able to see the fruits of their labor over the last year-plus.

Plans call for the organization to break ground on the new building in about 90 days and to complete construction in early 2017.

This is all made possible because Indianapolis’ Capital Improvement Board (CIB) unanimously approved this request at a Monday afternoon board meeting. The proposal was presented by Earl Goode, the chairman of the CIB.

The land is owned by the CIB and leased to PS&E for $1 per year. Under the new 40-year agreement, the CIB has a 10-year option.

St. Vincent, meanwhile, a 20-hospital system, will have the fifth (top) floor to themselves and it’ll be open to the public for primary care, cardiovascular, and sports performance services.

About 14 months ago, then-PS&E President Jim Morris approached Ralph Reiff, the Executive Director at St. Vincent Sports Performance about a possible partnership.

“We’re going to build a practice facility and we really want St. Vincent Sports Performance to be a part of what we do,” Morris told Reiff.

“And it wasn’t from a financial standpoint,” Reiff noted. “It wasn’t for the naming rights. It was about our programming and how we could be a support system to the operations of the Indiana Pacers.”

The St. Vincent Center, coming in early 2017.

The St. Vincent Center, coming in early 2017.

This is a great tie-in — partnership, they call it — between St. Vincent and the Pacers who already have a great relationship. In addition to the medical services, the Pacers utilize a St. Vincent Sports Performance psychologist, Dr. Chris Carr, and a nutritionalist, Lindsay Langford.

“Our focus on this is how can we make this organization the most coveted organization on many different levels around all of those services that touch the athlete,” Reiff said.

While their doctor and sports performance personnel won’t work exclusively at the new St. Vincent Center, they’ll be around a lot more and be a strong support system for the Pacers.

“In our sport, it seems like the players get bigger and stronger every year,” said Larry Bird, the Pacers President of Basketball Operations. “What we try to do, not only for us but for them, is try to maximize their talents — make sure they’re getting the right sleep patterns, make sure they are hydrating 24 hours a day, all kinds of different tests we can do just to make them better and to get their skill level at the highest they possibly can.”

The basketball staff has been part of the design process. They want to have it organized in a way that best suits the athletes and support staff. When strength and conditioning coach Shawn Windle wants to add something new to the weight room, he must then decide what to remove. The space is that tight. Also, the team’s massage therapist, Fadi Kazma, will finally have his own work area.

The team’s medical staff has discussed at length what type of equipment they want and need. At least immediately, a beneficial yet expensive item like an MRI machine will not be in the building but they are open to adding it and other devices later on.

“There’s room for growth,” Reiff said. “We’ve had all of those discussions and what we’ve said is, ‘Let’s live in the space and see what needs to happen.'”

As part of the agreement, the St. Vincent logo will appear on the Pacers’ practice jerseys.

The new facility will feature two basketball courts, training rooms, and other amenities.

The new facility will feature two basketball courts, training rooms, and other amenities.

The Pacers also believe this was necessary to stay in the arms race for free agent talent. Nearly one year ago, the Chicago Bulls opened up a $25 million, 60,000-square-foot practice facility and the Cleveland Cavaliers built a $25 million, 50,000-square foot building in 2007 … off-site, though, eight miles away from Quicken Loans Arena. Both the Bulls and Cavaliers practice facilities also have a health group name on them.

“This is a state-of-the-art facility that helps a small-market team compete for top talent in a very competitive business,” said Bird.

The St. Vincent Center will be the 20th stand-alone training facility built by an NBA team since 1999, and what makes it better than most is that it is adjacent to the Fieldhouse. As I reported on Monday, the Pacers intend to build an underground tunnel running from Bankers Life Fieldhouse to the St. Vincent Center. Fuson added that he hopes the tunnel will be paid for by a state grant for infrastructure.

“It’s a home run for the Indiana Pacers,” Bird added.

Home run. Trifecta. Big deal. However you want to put it, this was an important motion for the future of the franchise.

[Renderings provided by Pacers Sports & Entertainment]

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