Plans to develop the east side of Wilmington’s Riverfront will get a big boost next year when a new sports complex comes to the city.
The Buccini/Pollin Group is partnering with the Philadelphia 76ers to build a 140,000-square-foot, multi-purpose sports complex just east of the Christina River.
It will sit on nearly nine acres off U.S. Route 13 and Garasches Lane near Southbridge currently owned by the Riverfront Development Corporation.
“This is an ambitious project that we think reflects the ‘yes,we can’ attitude of our city and our state. I think it reflects our aspirations for our city and this part of town,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki.
The facility will be called the 76ers Fieldhouse and give the Sixers’ G League minor league affiliate, the 87ers, a new 2,500 seat home court and practice facility. They've played at the 5,000 seat Bob Carpenter Center since their initial season in 2013-2014, and were looking for a new home.
"It was important for us to to stay in Delaware," said 87ers General Manager Elton Brand. "I've been to Sioux Falls, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and they all have a dedicated facility. So, to have that to compete on the court, and develop our players, so when they walk in there they feel like its something special, that's important."
The 76ers Fieldhouse will have three full-sized basketball courts. It will also have two indoor turf fields. All of those courts and fields will available for youth sports teams and tournaments to rent. The facility will also be home to a Nemours physical therapy and orthopedic clinic and Titus Sports Academy performance-training center.
The Buccini/Pollin Group’s Rob Buccini believes the combination of anchor tenants and rentals makes financial sense, but concedes this is also a bit of a passion project.
“We’ve done the analysis that we can make this profitable," said Buccini. "Do we think this is going to be the most profitable project we’ve ever done? Certainly not. We’re really doing it for the City of Wilmington. We’re doing it for hometown pride.”
Buccini/Pollin and city officials say the complex will offer underserved youth with sports programming free or at reduced cost.
“Absolutely. That’s a commitment I will personally make, although certainly these other folks have made it too. We are committed to making sure this adds a dimension of sustenance to our kids,” said Purzycki.
"Sports can change the trajectory of lives," said Brand, a former college and NBA star. "It's change mine. I made it the the pros. But it also changed [the lives] of a lot of my friends that didn't make the pros, who went to college, graduated and have stable families."
Buccini/Pollin will manage the facility, putting it in charge of balancing all of the uses planned.
"That's the trick," said Rob Buccini. "It's like running a hotel, which we are really good at. Just like at a hotel, you have to make sure all of your court time and turf time is occupied. So, we have a huge computer model that's already constructed that we will constantly work on and plug in times."
Buccini says another challenge will be finding programming for the space on weekdays during the school year when students aren't able to use it, but feels the 87ers, the 76ers and Philadelphia Union may be interested. Rob Buccini and other members of Buccini/Pollin have ownership stakes in the Union.
The 76ers Fieldhouse will cost around $26 million to build, with the city of Wilmington and state of Delaware expected to help cover some of that bill.
Construction is slated to begin early next year, with the facility opening by the end of 2018.