SBD/August 25, 2014/Facilities

Raptors To Build $30M Practice Facility, As Leiweke Makes Good On Promise To Ujiri

Raptors execs believe the facility will help them land the '16 NBA All-Star Game
Raptors President of Basketball Operations & GM Masai Ujiri and outgoing MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke on Friday unveiled plans for a $30M, 65,000-square-foot practice facility that "will be built on the grounds of Exhibition Place, pending a city council vote on Wednesday," according to Lori Ewing of the CP. Ujiri and his staff "took a peek in top facilities across North America to gather ideas." He said, "We took ideas from everybody." The two-story facility will "be available for groups such as the Ontario Basketball Association and Canada Basketball." While the announcement came one day after Leiweke confirmed his pending exit from MLSE, he said that he "didn't regret the timing of the announcement." Leiweke: "I think the reason we're doing this today is to prove that this is business as usual, we plow straight ahead" (CP, 8/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's Elizabeth Church reported the Raptors will be "kicking in extra money for new parking and parkland at the city-owned site." Leiweke called the facility's waterfront location one of the "great urban points of destination in North America." He added that it will "be a key part of the Raptors’ plans for playing host" to the '16 NBA All-Star Game (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/21). In Toronto, Doug Smith noted the team's current practice gym "is functional -- it’s stuck on the third floor of the Air Canada Centre -- but little things like having to wade through concert-goers and hockey fans some nights to get a workout in are inconvenient." The team’s exec offices "are also in a separate building, creating something of a disconnect" (TORONTO STAR, 8/23).

MAN ON A MISSION: SPORTSNET's Michael Grange wrote getting a practice facility done "was nearly an obsession for Leiweke, because it was a 'must-have' for Ujiri and essential to being a model NBA franchise." It was "one of the first things they talked about" when they met at Leiweke’s Vail, Colo. home "in the early stages of the wooing" that ended with Ujiri leaving the Nuggets to become Raptors GM (, 8/22). Meanwhile, the CP's Ewing noted Toronto FC F Jermain Defoe "was surprised by the news" of Leiweke leaving MLSE. Defoe: "He was a massive part of bringing me here." TFC coach Ryan Nelsen said that the organization "is much better off for having Leiweke -- even if for a short time." Nelsen: "Tim came in with an idea of what he wanted to do, and in that time, he’s put his fingerprint on this organization, hasn’t he, in such a fantastic way." Asked if he was disappointed in Leiweke's brief stint with MLSE, Nelsen said, "Not at all. He’s no disappointment at all" (CP, 8/22).
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