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Suns break ground on new practice facility set for completion in August

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PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns broke ground on a new practice facility Wednesday that the team plans to have completed construction on by August of 2020.

The facility, located at Camelback Road and 44th Street, is a part of the $235-million arena renovation deal in January that the City of Phoenix approved. The Phoenix Mercury will also use the facility.

Owner Robert Sarver said that $45 million of that, a number Sarver admitted will probably change, will go into the 50,000-square-foot building.

“Our goal here is to create one of the world’s best men’s and women’s basketball training [facilities],” Sarver said.

“We’re just very excited about taking this big step. This is a big step for us, this is an important step and we’re trying to do it the best we can and the right way.”

With the completion date currently set for Aug. 1, the team will have the facility for use at the beginning of the 2020-21 season and beyond.

At practice earlier in the day, head coach Monty Williams emphasized what the facility can do for the team.

“It’s huge,” he said. “When I looked at the renovations for this place and the practice site, we’re not gonna have to bow down to anybody. Our players are gonna realize that we’re not just a first-class organization with our people, but now the structures and buildings and processes that we have in place are with the  top organizations in the league so that’s exciting.”

At least nine different NBA franchises have opened practice facilities since 2016 and the Suns are one of the few in the league that currently do not have one in use. They are currently practicing on a court outside of the one they play on that is built inside Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The obvious immediate benefits are not having to worry about concerts and events taking place at the arena that make things complicated for the players to even get around to the practice court.

For a reference point, the arena has a long interior hallway that fully wraps around the perimeter of the ground floor. When a player pulls into the arena, they park on the opposite side of the locker rooms, giving them a decent-sized walk there. The walk isn’t the issue but it’s getting through those hallways when workers are setting things up for concerts and such.

It’s a hassle, one they won’t have to worry about in a 24/7 practice facility that will have retinal scanning for access.

Williams pointed out that unlike any other team, the Suns will have theirs in an area where everyone on the team is within a 15-minute drive to the facility.

That makes it easier for everyone, including family members that want to visit and can go across the street to shopping areas that are full of dining options. And that’s before the other new developments are in that include a boutique hotel and new restaurants.

“It’s unlike any place in the NBA because it’s right where we all live,” he said.

Of course, there’s the state-of-the-art innovative sports science and technology tools the Suns will have in place too. The facility will include outdoor elements of training space, with a 40-yard patch of turf among them. Other cool bits noted in the team’s release include a player’s lounge, which is essentially the locker room in the arena, active and quiet recovery rooms and more “ample recreational amenities.”

That includes a golf simulator that Williams mentioned, in case, I don’t know, someone wants to work on their swing when it’s not 110 degrees out I guess?

Jokes aside, this is very important for the Suns. After all, Williams said knowing the facility was coming when he accepted the job in May was one of the reasons he came to Phoenix.

General manager James Jones at the site reiterated what a difference the facility can make for the organization.

“I just want to make sure that people know how big of a deal this is,” Jones said. “If you’re a player, there’s nothing more important for you than knowing that when you step into the building, that you have the best. From the best chefs, the best coaches, the best floors — all these things. The details matter, because the margin for error is so small when you’re talking about championship aspiration and so every advantage we can give our players, we will.”

Because of practice facilities now turning into a norm for NBA teams as a true all-out luxury for players, this is obviously something that matters for guys when they choose where they want to play in free agency. It’s not difficult to envision yourself personally choosing somewhere to work and seeing what the Suns are working with in the arena compared to what they will have in a year at the facility.

“Free agents look at it. It’s a bit of a lighthouse for your organization,” Williams said. “Guys wanna know, ‘What kind of practice site do you guys have? What does it have in it? Are the shower heads higher than eight feet?’ Stuff like that. All that stuff is important. You don’t think it is, but it’s important.”

As for the arena renovations themselves, Sarver described the “arena transformation” as “spectacular” and sees 60% of it being done within a year’s time.

“There’s gonna be something in that arena for everybody to enjoy,” he said.

For more information on those renovations under “Project 201,” you can see more on the Suns’ website.

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