Official: 76ers Planning Camden Practice Space
The Philadelphia 76ers are close to a deal to build a new practice facility and executive offices on the waterfront of struggling Camden, New Jersey, likely aided by tax incentives, a government official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The team would continue to play its games in Philadelphia.
The plan had been listed on the initial agenda of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s meeting this month but was removed before the agenda was made public, the official said. The official spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations between the team and government officials are continuing.
The official said the hang-up was that the NBA had not approved the details. The plan could be up for approval at the EDA’s June meeting, which is scheduled to be held in Camden. A spokeswoman for the agency did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.
The plan, which was first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, could be a symbolic coup for Camden, a city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia that is among the nation’s most impoverished and crime-ridden.
The official said the facility would be built on the riverfront next to Campbell’s Field, a minor-league baseball ballpark.
It is unclear how many jobs the facility would bring to the city or how much public access there would be, or how much tax revenue it would bring in.
But given the involvement of the EDA, it is likely to come with some sort of subsidy from taxpayers.
Robert Corrales, a spokesman for Camden Mayor Dana Redd, would not comment specifically on whether the 76ers are coming to town. But he said the city has been courting new businesses with the help of retooled incentives offered by the state government. “Since the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 and Mayor Redd’s ongoing efforts to attract business investment and real jobs for Camden residents, the city has received a substantial increase in contacts from businesses and developers exploring opportunities in Camden.”
The rebuilding 76ers have made no secret of wanting a team-owned practice facility.
The team currently rents space at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is the only one in the NBA that does not own its own space.
Its earlier plan to build in the Philadelphia Navy Yard near the Wells Fargo Center, where the team plays its games, have reportedly fallen through.
In a statement, team CEO Scott O’Neil did not confirm the Camden site. “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,” he said.
Team officials have said having their own space with 24-hour access is a key to attracting free agents.
Professional sports have had a spotty history in Philadelphia’s New Jersey suburbs.
More than 20 years ago, the Sixers and the NHL’s Flyers explored a move to Camden, but they eventually got a new arena in Philadelphia instead.
The Riversharks, the independent minor-league baseball team in Camden, have long had financial struggles. And plans to bring minor-league hockey to the area more than a decade ago did not come to fruition.
The one enterprise seen as a success is the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees.
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